China Joins Forces with Iran on Short-Range Missile

Article excerpt

Iran is developing a new short-range ballistic missile as part of a joint program with China involving rocket motors and test equipment, The Washington Times has learned.

Iranian missile technicians traveled to China early last month to watch a ground test of a 450mm-diameter rocket motor to be used in the NP-110 solid-fuel missile, according to a Pentagon intelligence report labeled "top secret."

The missile, which would have a range of 105 miles, would be capable of hitting targets as far away as Baghdad and the United Arab Emirates, while keeping the missile launchers away from coasts, where they are vulnerable to counterattack, said Kenneth Timmerman, director of the Middle East Data Project, which tracks weapons programs in Iran.

The joint missile program also involves Iran's use or acquisition of Chinese X-ray equipment, which is used for studying missile casings and for checking whether solid fuel is in proper condition.

Disclosure of the Iran-China missile cooperation raises new questions about Clinton administration claims that China has been heeding U.S. warnings about curbing trade with Iran and other rogue states on missile and weapons technology.

John Holum, director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, told reporters in November, after a visit to China, that U.S.-China collaboration on arms control and proliferation issues was "very constructive," and said Chinese progress on restricting destabilizing arms sales was "dramatic."

A classified CIA report in October said China had provided Iran with missile guidance components and technology.

"This is a new [category] of missiles," Mr. Timmerman said of the NP-110. "It shows the Iranians have a very advanced and multifaceted capability to produce solid-fuel propellants"

In written statements to Congress made public last week, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, "Iran's ballistic program poses a serious threat to American servicemen and -women."

"Iran's ballistic missile program also poses a threat to America's friends and allies in the region," she said in response to questions by Rep. Gerald B. Solomon, New York Republican.

The administration has been "reviewing carefully" reports of missile- and weapons-technology transfers from China to Iran but has not decided whether the sales meet legal thresholds for triggering sanctions, she said. …