U.S. Officials Urge China To Improve Nonproliferation Efforts

By Susan Krause
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - China must demonstrate greater leadership in addressing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, officials from the Bush administration said in testimony before a federal government commission September 14.

Recent events, including the July 4 test-launch of several missiles by North Korea and the militant Islamic resistance movement Hezbollah's use of Chinese-designed "Silkworm" cruise missiles in strikes against Israeli naval vessels on July 15 demonstrate the effect of China's behavior, according to Peter Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.

Despite repeated assurances from the Chinese government that it opposes the proliferation of materials and technology used in the production and delivery of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the United States government remains concerned about lapses in enforcement, says Paula DeSutter, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance and implementation. 

Rodman and DeSutter appeared at a hearing of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), a congressionally mandated body charged with monitoring the national security implications of trade and economic ties between the United States and China.  

"China's nonproliferation efforts have shown some improvement over the past several years," DeSutter said.  "Unfortunately, Chinese entities' record of transferring WMD and missile technologies and materials - and the record of the Chinese government's enforcement of its own laws and regulations to stem these transfers - remains unsatisfactory."


Chinese entities, including state-owned companies, have transferred weapons technologies to countries around the world, the officials said, including "states of concern" such as Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Burma, Zimbabwe, Cuba and Venezuela. 

"In some of these cases, Chinese authorities declare that they have taken direct action against firms and tightened export controls to close loopholes, but these measures are uneven and the problematic activity continues," Rodman said. 

DeSutter said the United States particularly is concerned about "serial proliferators," a limited number of entities that, through repeated actions, have been responsible for much of the proliferation problem. 

In June, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on four Chinese entities pursuant to Executive Order 13382, which blocks U.S.-based property of WMD proliferators and their supporters.  The entities - Beijing Alite Technologies Company Ltd. (ALCO), LIMMT Economic and Trade Company Ltd., China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC), and China National Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CNPMIEC) were designated as suppliers of financial, material, technological or other support for Iran's missile programs. (See related article.)

Pressure from the United States has been an essential factor in improving China's behavior, DeSutter said.

"The imposition, or even the mere threat of sanctions, can be an influential tool for changing behavior, as few countries or companies wish to be labeled publicly as irresponsible," she said. 


China has long-standing relationships with both Iran and North Korea, Rodman told the commission, but its actions in the proliferation area seem "dangerously shortsighted." 

The United States has been concerned that China has engaged in significant transfers of conventional weapons to Iran and has assisted Iran in developing ballistic missile, nuclear, and chemical programs. 

"This is not consistent with China's natural interest in Middle East stability," Rodman said. 

China's decision to support U.N. Security Council Resolution 1696, which demands that Iran suspend enrichment of uranium by August 31, suggested that it was willing to confront the potential threat posed by Iran's nuclear activities, he said. (See related article.)

"Unfortunately, China has joined Russia in a reluctance to back up this vote with action," he said. 

Historically, China has supplied military technology to North Korea, Rodman said, providing dual-use missile-related items, raw materials and other forms of assistance well into the 1990s. 

In more recent times, he added, China has been a major supplier of food and fuel to North Korea, and has played a leading role in the Six-Party Talks seeking to end nuclear programs on the Korean Peninsula.  (See The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula.)

"We recognize and appreciate the important contributions China has made in recent years to organize and host the Six-Party Talks," Rodman said.  "Nonetheless, China, as the country with the most leverage over North Korea, can and should do more."

North Korea's missile tests "demonstrate that China's past tolerance of North Korea's provocative behavior has indirectly eroded the very stability it claims to seek," Rodman said.  He welcomed China's decision to vote in favor of Security Council Resolution 1695, condemning the launches.  (See related article.)

Rodman urged China to reassess its relations with Pyongyang and Teheran.

"United States policy is to encourage China not only to take its proper place in the international system, but to take on its appropriate share of international leadership," he said.  "A commitment to peace and stability is an important component of that."  

In the cases of both Iran and North Korea, Rodman cautioned,  "the dangers to regional and global stability are increasing, and the time is right for Beijing to think hard about its relationships and its interests.  We believe that China's approach for too long has been one of shielding these regimes from the consequences of their dangerous behavior."


Rodman acknowledged that China is taking steps to improve its export controls and reduce its transfers of WMD-related technologies.

"The fact remains, however, that Chinese entities today remain key sources of transfers of arms, WMD- and missile-related equipment and technologies including dual-use technology and related military capabilities, to countries of concern," he said.  "These transfers do considerable harm to regional stability."

He urged China to address areas of concern by strengthening its export licensing procedures, border controls and detection capabilities, and by implementing more rigorous enforcement and prosecution.

"We take China at its word that it has an interest in stability," he said, "and it is our hope that China will come to the calculation that its best strategic interest lies in enforcing international non-proliferation norms."

DeSutter acknowledged that U.S. engagement with China on nonproliferation issues could be "contentious." However, U.S. concerns with China "are not irremediable," she said.

For more information on U.S. policy, see The United States and China and Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

The texts of DeSutter's and Rodman's prepared statements are available on the USCC Web site.