China is continuing to sell dangerous nuclear technology and missiles around the world, mainly to North Korea and Iran, according to the Congressional Research Service.
A CRS report published earlier this month reveals that the Chinese government seems to have ceased direct involvement in nuclear arms proliferation and sales of complete missile systems in favor of hiding behind cutout entities.
“The Chinese government has apparently ended its direct involvement in the transfer of nuclear- and missile-related items, but Chinese-based companies and individuals continue to export goods relevant to those items, particularly to Iran and North Korea,” the report states.
A more recent focus of China‘s arms proliferation has been the threat of the acquisition of American-origin nuclear technology. The CRS report said a 2018 State Department annual report on arms compliance provided details of the illicit activities by China.
The Chinese government has denied engaging in arms proliferation activities and has insisted it supports international arms control and nonproliferation regimes.
The report, based on highly classified intelligence, said Chinese companies in 2018 supplied missile goods restricted by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), an informal international arms accord, to Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Pakistan.
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Beijing ignored U.S. government appeals to stop the sales, the report said.
The most recent State Department arms compliance report omitted details of the Chinese proliferation activities but stated that Beijing continued to supply missile goods in violation of its MTCR commitments. The arms proliferation has continued despite decades of sanctions imposed on Chinese entities for arms proliferation activities.
The most recent sanctions were imposed in November against two Chinese entities for what the State Department said were in response to the companies’ transfer of “sensitive technology and items to Iran‘s missile program.”
Earlier in 2017 the Treasury Department sanctioned a Chinese coal company for using foreign exchange produced by selling North Korean coal and using the funds to purchase nuclear and missile components for Pyongyang.
The CRS report sought to distance the Chinese government from the illicit arms proliferation, quoting former State Department arms expert Vann Van Diepen as saying that even if the arms-related transfers are not state-sponsored, the government has failed to devote enough resources to stop them.
“When that continues to be the case over 20 years, even when they have been criticized, over time it becomes a choice, and you have to wonder what’s going on,” Mr. Van Diepen said.
In addition to arms proliferation, China also has engaged in money-laundering, providing illicit financial services and utilizing “a network of financial representatives, primarily in China, who operate as agents for North Korean financial institutions,” the report said.
“The representatives orchestrate schemes, set up front or shell companies, and manage surreptitious bank accounts to move and disguise illicit funds, evade sanction, and finance the proliferation of North Korea‘s [weapons of mass destruction] and ballistic missile programs.”
According to Alex Wong, until recently deputy assistant secretary of state for North Korea, China hosts around two dozen North Korean weapons of mass destruction and missile procurement agents and bank representatives.
“China has flouted U.N. Security Council resolutions’ requirements to expel such representatives,” the report quoted Mr. Wong as saying, adding that the U.S. government “provided China with ample actionable information on the ongoing U.N.-prohibited activities occurring within its borders,” yet Beijing “has chosen not to act.”
The report also says China is assisting the Saudi Arabian government in building facilities for possible uranium production.
China also built civilian nuclear reactors in Pakistan that have been a proliferation concern. Critics say the reactors violate Beijing‘s commitments to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, an international organization devoted to halting nuclear weapons proliferation.
“China has constructed four power reactors in Pakistan and is constructing two additional such reactors,” the CRS report said, noting the facilities’ lack of international oversight. “Islamabad’s nuclear weapons facilities are not safeguarded.”
China has been a major nuclear proliferator beginning in the late 1990s when Beijing sold ring magnets to Pakistan that were used in the development of Islamabad’s nuclear weapons. China also has sold heavy-duty truck chassis that were used for North Korea‘s new, road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles.
China‘s initial motivation for sales of dangerous weaponry was a way to raise funds for its military modernization program.
“During the 1980s and 1990s, China transferred nuclear and missile technology to other countries’ weapons programs,” the report said.
“China provided assistance to Pakistan‘s nuclear weapons program and engaged in nuclear cooperation with Iran. Beijing exported missiles to Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.”