- The Washington Times - Friday, January 25, 2002

The Bush administration imposed economic sanctions on China yesterday after Beijing was caught selling chemical- and biological-weapons equipment to Iran.

It was the second time in four months that sanctions were imposed on China for its sales of weapons of mass destruction, products and missile goods.

In September, the State Department imposed sanctions on the China Metallurgical Equipment Corp. and Pakistan's National Development Complex. Those sanctions were for Chinese missile-related sales.

"We imposed penalties on three Chinese entities, pursuant to the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters yesterday.

The sanctions come weeks before President Bush will visit China as part of a tour of Asia. He is set to leave Feb. 16 for China, Japan and South Korea.

The sanctions were imposed on two companies and one person, Q.C. Chen, Mr. Boucher said.

"The penalties were imposed for the transfer to Iran of equipment and technology that's used for the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons," Mr. Boucher said. The equipment is controlled under a forum known as the Australia Group.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman could not be reached for comment. Spokesmen for the companies and the person sanctioned also could not be reached.

The sanctions were imposed because the transfer "violated the provisions of the law" that require sanctions for chemical and biological weapons sales, Mr. Boucher said.

A U.S. intelligence official said at least one of the chemical-related shipments took place in April and was tracked by U.S. intelligence agencies. No other details on the transfer were made public.

"We've had a long-standing dialogue with China on nonproliferation issues and overall sought to get China to abide by or impose similar standards to those that the rest of the international community follows when it comes to these kinds of transfers," said Mr. Boucher.

Mr. Boucher said the sanctions are "comparable" to those imposed last year for China's missile-related sales to Pakistan.

The missile components were tracked to Pakistan's Shaheen missiles, which are nuclear-capable and thus violated a pledge made by the Chinese government not to export missiles or related goods that could be used for nuclear delivery systems.

Mr. Boucher would not comment on how the Chinese transfers had helped the Iranian chemical- or biological-weapons program.

A notice in the Federal Register, the U.S. government's official notification outlet, stated that the three companies had sold equipment to Iran that violated the statute.

The three Chinese entities hit with the sanctions were identified as Liyang Chemical Equipment; the China Machinery and Electric Equipment Import and Export Co., and Q.C. Chen. One of the companies produces glass-lined equipment, which can be used to produce chemical weapons.

The sanctions bar the companies from doing business with the U.S. government and prevent them from getting any assistance from the United States. The companies are also banned from buying arms, arms-related goods or goods that require export licenses from the United States. The sanctions will be in place for two years.

Gary Milhollin, director of the private Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, said the person identified by the State Department, Mr. Chen, had been hit with sanctions in 1997.

Mr. Milhollin said the sanctions are ineffective since one of the entities was sanctioned in the past and continued its proliferation.

"It's a good thing to sanction these companies, but on the other hand, these sanctions don't really have any teeth," Mr. Milhollin said. "We don't do business with these companies so there is no real penalty and thus no real impact on their activities."

"The big question for Bush's trip [to China] is whether China is really going to change its behavior after September 11," said Mr. Milhollin. "The fact that we had to sanction them shows they probably won't."

A CIA report to Congress made public last year said Iran was one of the most active states seeking to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and missile systems, primarily from Russia, China and North Korea.

The CIA report said that before the last half of 2001 "Chinese firms had supplied dual-use [chemical-weapons]-related production equipment and technology to Iran." Sanctions were imposed in May 1997 on seven Chinese entities for boosting the Iranian chemical-arms program, the report said.

"Evidence during the current reporting period shows Iran continues to seek such assistance from Chinese entities, but it is unclear to what extent these efforts have succeeded," the report said.

Meanwhile, a senior State Department official said yesterday that the United States is stepping up efforts to pressure states that aid in the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

John Bolton, undersecretary of state for international security, said in a speech to the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament that the United States will use "every method at our disposal" to make sure terrorists do not get weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Bolton said Iraq and North Korea had violated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and are interfering with monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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