Monday, August 23, 2004

A Chinese company recently supplied missile-related technology to Iran in violation of Beijing’s promises to curb arms-proliferation activities, U.S. intelligence officials say.

The transfers took place within the past six months and represent a continuation of past Chinese covert arms transfers to countries such as Iran and Pakistan.

No details of the missile technology or the companies involved were disclosed by the officials. However, the activities were confirmed by U.S. intelligence agencies, said officials familiar with intelligence reports.

China could face sanctions under U.S. laws against arms proliferation, as has occurred four times in the recent past, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

One U.S. official familiar with reports of the missile-related transfer said it was detected several weeks ago. “It is a matter of concern,” the official said.

The missile-related transfers, which in the past have included materials used in making missile shells and missile-guidance systems, took place after China’s government issued a report in December pledging not to transfer weapons of mass destruction and missile-delivery systems.

Asked about the latest reported transfers of missile goods from China to Iran, Chinese Embassy spokesman Sun Weide had no comment.

Mr. Sun said the Chinese government has adopted a responsible attitude toward arms transfers. “China’s government is firmly opposed to the proliferation of [weapons of mass destruction] and their means of delivery,” he said.

A report by the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission made public in June stated that continued Chinese missile and nuclear cooperation with Iran “is extremely troubling.”

“Chinese entities continue to assist Iran with dual-use missile-related items, raw materials and chemical weapons-related production equipment and technology,” the report said, quoting a recent CIA report.

Caroline Bartholomew, a commission member, told a House Armed Services Committee hearing in June that the report “provides ample documentation of why we continue to distrust the government of the People’s Republic of China.”

“The Chinese government pattern of promises made and promises broken on trade issues, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction technology and on human rights and basic freedoms continues,” she said.

“Despite claims that China is helping to halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related technology, numerous examples of such proliferation from China continue,” she said.

Miss Bartholomew also said there are reports that North Korea has used Chinese facilities for transshipping weapons exports to third countries.

The U.S. report includes a chart showing Chinese companies have sold CSS-8 and DF-15 ballistic missiles to Iran, along with cruise missiles identified as HY-1, HY-2 Silkworm, C-201, C-601, C-801 and C-802.

The report says China also is suspected of assisting Iran with the medium-range Shahab-3 missile, which was recently tested by the Iranians.

Other Chinese assistance to the Iranian missile programs has included support for indigenous Iranian missiles, propellant and chemicals used in making missile fuel, missile-guidance kits, gyroscopes, accelerometers and test equipment.

Miss Bartholomew said numerous U.S. sanctions imposed on China for its missile transfers have been ineffective.

The Chinese government makes agreements that it will halt the sales of weapons and missiles to rogue states, but then Beijing officials say that the proliferation is done at a local level and that they do not have control over the companies involved, she said.

However, many of the companies involved in the missile-related sales are state-owned enterprises or formerly state-owned companies connected to the Chinese military.

Also, Miss Bartholomew said China has about 30,000 people monitoring Chinese Internet usage, aimed at preventing people from reading foreign news or human rights Web sites.

“It’s very difficult for me to believe that if they can have 30,000 people who are tracking Internet usage, they could not be putting resources toward stopping companies who are doing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” she said.

The State Department in April imposed sanctions banning 13 companies, including five Chinese firms, for transferring missile equipment to Iran.

Last September, the department issued its strongest sanctions against a company that U.S. officials have identified as a “serial proliferator.”

The state-run conglomerate known as Norinco was hit with sanctions that blocked the company from doing business in the United States. The sanctions are expected to cost the Chinese several hundred million dollars in lost business.

Sanctions have been imposed on China four times in the past year for violating U.S. laws aimed at curbing the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and missile-delivery systems.

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