China Plays a Major Role in Expanding the Nuclear Club

By Gertz, Bill | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 29, 1998 | Go to article overview
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China Plays a Major Role in Expanding the Nuclear Club

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

China provided Pakistan with key expertise and equipment that is helping Islamabad develop nuclear weapons and strategic missile systems.

"China has had a major hand in what happened today," said R. James Woolsey, former CIA director, commenting on the underground nuclear blasts that moved Pakistan closer to becoming a formal member of the nuclear weapons club.

According to U.S. intelligence officials and private experts, China has worked with Pakistan in sharing weapons-related goods since the 1980s. Transfers include: * Nuclear weapons design information that helped Pakistan fashion its estimated 10 to 15 devices.

* Ring magnets - special bearings used in centrifuges that increased Pakistan's capability to produce enriched uranium for weapons fuel.

* M-11 short-range missiles and equipment used in setting up a missile production facility in Pakistan.

* Expertise in the development of nuclear arms, such as the electronics, triggering and packaging of weapons.

* Special industrial furnace and high-tech diagnostic equipment with military applications for nuclear facilities in Pakistan. The State Department protested the sale with a diplomatic note Aug. 30, 1996.

Early this year, China attempted to sell nuclear-weapons-related equipment to Pakistan, in violation of a pledge to the United States not to do so. The sale was blocked after Washington protested to Beijing.

Highlighting past U.S. sanctions on both Pakistan and China aimed at curbing weapons transfers, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday noted in a speech that China was a loyal ally.

"Pakistani-China friendship has made it through all tests," he said. "We are very proud of our neighbor China for all its help."

Mr. Woolsey said in an interview that the Chinese provided weapons design information to Pakistan.

U.S. government policy of relaxing exports to China also "had some hand in giving the Indians an excuse to test," Mr. Woolsey said.

A Chinese government spokesman in Beijing expressed "deep regret" over Pakistan's test and said China opposes "any form of nuclear weapon proliferation."

Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott sidestepped a reporter's question about the Chinese role in the accelerating nuclear arms race on the Indian subcontinent.

The United States has "not agreed" with China on weapons proliferation, but a dialogue with Beijing has led to "some progress on some issues," he said.

The Clinton administration believes the motivation for India's tests, "which led directly to the Pakistani test, was not security concerns about China," Mr. Talbott said. The U.S. government "will continue to work the nonproliferation agenda with China, as we will with lots of other countries," he said.

India has said that its nuclear tests were conducted in response to threats posed by China, although the New Delhi government recently has backed off the claims, according to Henry Sokolski, a former Bush administration weapons proliferation specialist.

"We let them build a production plant for missiles and nuclear materials and ignored their sales of M-11s and ring magnets," Mr. Sokolski said.

"The Chinese certainly have been active," he said.

Mr. Sokolski, director of the private Non-proliferation Policy Education Center, said India's nuclear and missile program benefited from U.S. assistance to New Delhi's civilian reactor program and space launchers.

"We pushed Atoms for Peace and Space for Peace on India and did very little to safeguard the technology," Mr. Sokolski said of U.S. assistance programs to India.

When India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974, "we looked the other way" rather than take steps to deter further developments, he said.

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