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8 December 1998. Thanks to Anonymous.

The Washington Times, 07 December 1998

U.S. Protests Chinese Shipment of Missile Technology to Iran

By Bill Gertz

China last month delivered a new shipment of missile technology to Iran, prompting an official U.S. protest during a meeting in Beijing, according to U.S. intelligence and national security officials.

The transfer included telemetry equipment that could be used in the testing of medium-range missiles, such as Iran's new Shahab-3 missile that was tested for the first time earlier this year.

"We raised with the Chinese specific concerns we have about missile cooperation with Iran," a senior administration official told The Washington Times. The official said those specific concerns involved the sale of telemetry equipment.

Until recently, the main foreign assistance to the Iranian missile program had come from Russia, which has provided technology and training over the past two years. That support has continued despite high-level U.S. diplomatic efforts to halt it.

China's role in the Iranian missile program was first disclosed by The Times last year when U.S. intelligence officials said China's Great Wall Industries Co. had agreed to provide an entire "telemetry infrastructure" to Iran as part of the Shahab missile-development program.

The transfer could violate repeated pledges made by the Beijing government to abide by the guidelines of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The administration has avoided imposing sanctions on China missile sales to Pakistan that violate U.S. laws aimed at adding teeth to the MTCR agreement.

The United States imposed mild sanctions on China in 1993 for selling MTCR-related missile technology to Pakistan but lifted the sanctions after China agreed to abide by the agreement's major provision barring the sale of entire missile systems.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin promised President Clinton at their summit meeting in June to "study" the possibility of joining the 29-nation export control agreement.

The Beijing meeting Nov. 12 was the first exchange of views on missile threats and proliferation since the summit. U.S. officials discussed North Korea's recent test-firing of a new missile known as the Taepo Dong-1. During the meeting in Beijing, People's Liberation Army Gen. Xiong Guangkai told John Holum, the acting undersecretary of state for international security, that "studying the MTCR is not the same as joining the MTCR," according to participants in the meeting. Gen. Xiong said China is willing to work together with the United States in its study, which has been going on for several months.

Gen. Xiong, a People's Liberation Army deputy chief of staff, also warned the United States that China would not allow U.S. regional missile-defense systems to provide protection for Taiwan from Chinese missiles, the officials said. He also said that any U.S. sale of missile-defense technology would constitute "missile proliferation" by the United States and would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Gen. Xiong was the officer who told former Pentagon official Charles Freeman in 1995 that the United States would not challenge China militarily over Taiwan because "in the end you care more about Los Angeles than Taipei." Mr. Freeman reported the incident to the White House at the time as a threat to use nuclear weapons.

"The Chinese did express strong concerns about us helping Taiwan in the area of TMD," the senior official said, referring to Theater Missile Defenses by its Pentagon acronym.

Two U.S. aircraft carriers were deployed near Taiwan in March 1996 in response to provocative Chinese missile tests north and south of the island.

China is not a signatory to the treaty between the United States and the now-defunct Soviet Union, so the general's invoking the treaty was very unusual, U.S. officials said.

Asked about the ABM treaty reference, the senior official said "it was not a strong part of their argument; it was something they said, not something they pursued in the discussions."

Other officials said the Chinese probably raised the ABM treaty because they know that the Clinton administration has made the arms agreement the "cornerstone" of its strategic relations with Russia and that preserving the treaty against critics who favor missile defenses is one of its highest priorities.

Many Republicans in Congress say the ABM treaty should be scrapped because it is outdated and hinders deployment of missile defenses needed against a growing long-range missile threat.

According to officials who took part in the Nov. 12 meeting in Beijing, Mr. Holum said there was a need for the United States and China to begin talks on strategic nuclear weapons policies.

"We would like to have a discussion with the Chinese on strategic [nuclear] issues," the senior official said. "This is a very sensitive issue for them, but we're looking at ways we might be able to move forward."

Gen. Xiong told the United States that Japan should not "overreact" to North Korea's Aug. 31 test-firing of a new long-range missile over northern Japan by deploying missile defenses, the officials said. The general said China does not want missile or nuclear weapons proliferation on the Korean peninsula, but is more opposed to missile defenses that could counter Beijing's arsenal of advanced missiles.

China is developing at least four new missile systems and modernizing others, including two mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles carried on truck launchers.

On the latest Chinese missile technology transfer, the senior official said the equipment has "dual-use" applications for either short-range tactical missiles or longer-range missiles. "The Iranians could use it for either system," he said.

"We're concerned about the transfer because we don't believe any assistance to the Iranian missile program is a good idea and because the equipment can be used for both types of missiles."

U.S. intelligence agencies also have uncovered new information about China's missile technology transfers to Pakistan for its new medium-range missile known as the Shaheen.

"What concerns us is Chinese assistance to [Pakistan's] MTCR-class systems," the senior official said. The official said the Chinese appear to be helping the Pakistanis develop the Shaheen. Pakistan announced in September that it expected to test the nuclear-capable missile in the near future.

Copyright 1998 News World Communications, Inc.