China Nuclear Transfer Exposed: Hill Expected to Urge Sanctions

By Gertz, Bill | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 5, 1996 | Go to article overview

China Nuclear Transfer Exposed: Hill Expected to Urge Sanctions


Gertz, Bill, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The CIA has uncovered new evidence China has violated U.S. anti-proliferation laws by exporting nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan.

Evidence that China has transferred ring magnets - used in gas centrifuges that enrich uranium for weapons - is likely to intensify congressional pressure on the Clinton administration to impose sanctions as required by law.

Last week, several senators asked the president in a letter if China's sale of advanced cruise missiles to Iran, disclosed Tuesday by Vice Adm. Scott Redd, commander of U.S. naval forces in the Persian Gulf, also violates counterproliferation laws.

State Department officials are expected to confront Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, who arrives in Washington today, over the nuclear technology and other weapons-proliferation exports.

The administration in the past has sought to minimize Chinese nuclear and missile-proliferation activities. But senior State Department officials are said to be very worried that China's proliferation activities can no longer be ignored without undermining the credibility of U.S. efforts to halt the spread of nuclear arms technology and missiles.

"The Chinese are their own worst enemy," a White House official said when asked about the new proliferation activities by Beijing.

The CIA in 1992 obtained intelligence indicating China had transferred M-11 missiles to Pakistan, including photographs of missile canisters. But the State Department ruled there was no proof missiles were inside, thereby avoiding having to invoke tough sanctions.

Instead, the department in 1993 applied much milder sanctions for transferring what it said was M-11 technology, and then lifted the sanctions after a year.

According to intelligence sources, the CIA recently notified the State Department that China sold 5,000 ring magnets to the A.Q. Khan Research Laboratory in Kahuta, Pakistan, last year.

Officials did not further identify the originating firm in China, but one congressional source said the magnets were probably produced by the China National Nuclear Co., a government-owned firm that makes nuclear-related products.

CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield declined to comment when asked about the Chinese transfer of nuclear technology. Spokesmen for the Chinese and Pakistani embassies could not be reached for comment.

According to congressional sources, State Department officials believe China's export of ring magnets violates the Arms Export Control Act. Under an amendment to that law, the 1994 Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act, the president is required to impose sanctions on any country that "transfers to a non-nuclear weapon state any design information or component" used in building nuclear arms.

Gas centrifuges are used to extract enriched uranium from uranium gas. Intelligence officials believe the magnets sent to Pakistan will be used in special suspension bearings at the top of a spinning chamber in the centrifuges. …

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