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China wants to define weapons in space in the agreement so that key sensors used by U.S. missile defenses — the Space Based Infrared Radar — will be banned, something that would nullify multibillion-dollar U.S. strategic missile defenses. Beijing also opposes on-site verification, making any agreement a trust-but-don’t-verify accord.

China, alone among the U.N. Security Council permanent members, is believed to be continuing to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons, while the United States, Russia, Britain and France are not.

The cutoff of fissile material is one of the administration’s highest priorities because it is thought to be a prerequisite for President Obama’s ultimate vision of eliminating all nuclear arms.

China instead is in the midst of a major strategic nuclear-warhead buildup that has been largely ignored by the arms-control community, both in and out of government.

“Here, the Chinese are saying ‘no’ to verification, and Obama administration officials are timid in pressing them on it,” the official said.

China also continues to reject joining the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative, a program developed under the George W. Bush administration to thwart transfers of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, mainly at sea.

China rejected numerous invitations to join meetings of the initiative, which has been backed by 90 nations concerned about arms proliferation.

Recently disclosed State Department cables have shown China, in fact, has assisted arms proliferation, specifically allowing North Korean missile-related air-transport shipments to transit China.

“This is another example, like climate change, where China has refused to cooperate,” the official said.

Asked about the problem, Ms. Gottemoeller declined to be interviewed. But State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the administration has not given up engaging China on arms control.

“We have a regular dialogue with China on nonproliferation and international security issues,” he said in an e-mail to Inside the Ring.

The next forum will be a French-hosted conference later this year to “focus on nuclear verification, transparency, and confidence-building,” Mr. Crowley said.

In January, President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao “reaffirmed the commitment to pursue a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, as well as early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and further cooperation on nuclear security,” he said.


Navy officials this week declined to tell Congress what the service is doing, if anything, to directly counter the emergence of China’s new aircraft-carrier-killing anti-ship ballistic missile and other advanced weapons.

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