During the past months, China has continued its relentless drive towards further arming itself and spreading nuclear and missile technology. This drive is taking place in spite of China's pledges to abide by the provisions of international agreements to halt nuclear testing and the spread of missile technology. Below is a short overview of major cases:
On 8 June and 29 July 1996, China set off two middle-range nuclear explosions at Lop Nor in China's Northwestern Provinces. The 20 to 80 kiloton explosions were China's 44th and 45th at the site, and were two to eight times as large as the bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
China was the only country still conducting nuclear testing, as the international community is attempting to move towards a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and all other nuclear nations have agreed to abide by a moratorium on testing until the CTBT comes into effect.
Cumbersome negotiations on the CTBT were held in Geneva from 1994 through August 1996, but then the final text was held up because India concerned about China's new nuclear capabilities felt that the Treaty does not do enough to spur on nuclear disarmament.
On 10 September 1996, the UN General Assembly finally adopted the CTBT, but it will only take effect after the signature and ratification of 44 specific countries, including India. This process could still take many years.
On 25 August 1996, the Washington Post reported that U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Pakistan is building a medium-range missile factory using blueprints and equipment supplied by China. According to the report, the plant in a suburb of Rawalpindi will be capable in a year or two of producing a missile modeled after the Chinese M-11, a rocket capable of carrying nuclear warheads up to 320 kilometers ("China linked to Pakistani missile plant", Washington Post, 25 August 1996).
According to the Washington Post article, the U.S. has twice imposed sanctions against China for exporting missile technology to Pakistan, but lifted them after China promised to halt such deliveries. In addition, the U.S. only recently settled a dispute with China over the export of nuclear technology and equipment to Pakistan in violation of international agreements.
However, in a peculiar twist of principles, the Clinton Administration indicated at the end of August that it would downplay the issue and would not seek sanctions against China for violating the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), an international agreement which the Chinese have promised to abide by ("U.S. wary of punishing China for missile help to Pakistan", New York Times, 27 August 1996).
The best response to the U.S. silence was formulated by veteran New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal ("On my mind: the Chinese missiles", New York Times, 30 August 1996) when he wrote:
"The Clintonians have been telling the American people that through trade and talk, the U.S. can persuade the Communists to permit an open society, respect human rights and abide by international efforts against nuclear proliferation.
That policy was false in premise and has been a failure in practice. To give China's missile proliferation the public attention it should have would be to admit to the failure. Until the United States does admit it, Washington will remain a prisoner of Beijing."
Mr. Rosenthal also doesn't mince any words when describing the Republican candidate:
"On China policy, members of Congress line up not so much by party but by what their hearts and minds tell them on the critical question: to appease or not to appease. But Bob Dole told us he is not bound by the (Republican) party platform, hasn't even read it. Maybe he ought to read at least page 84, all that stuff about Chinese military potential and proliferation activities and how America must be vigilant. Then he might talk to the voters and tell them it will be all around until and after Election Day, guaranteed."
Taiwan Communiqué comment: We fully endorse Mr. Rosenthal's views. Mr. Clinton needs to be much more forceful in his approach to China. The present "ambiguous engagement" policy is merely strengthening China in its views that it can manipulate the U.S. and other Western nations by playing them out against each other.
The U.S. and Western Europe must join in a common approach to China, that emphasizes human rights in China itself and in occupied areas like Tibet, that stresses democratic values and an open ecomomy, and that prevents the sale and leakage of technology and military equipment. If they don't, then East Asia will become a tinderbox of instability.
In mid-September 1996 the Washington-based publication Defense News reported that the French government was rolling out the red carpet for a 32-man high-level Chinese military delegation, and was signaling its willingness to supply advanced weapons to China ("French opens arsenal door for Chinese", Defense News, September 16-22, 1996).
According to the report, the Chinese delegation is interested in several advanced military systems from France, including submarine technology, flight test equipment, up to 45 Crotale naval ship-based air defense systems, as well as advanced avionics and air-to-air missile technology.
During the mid-September visit, the Chinese delegation visited a French Navy shipyard at Cherbourg, which builds submarines, and the Istres Flight test center, where the program included an in-flight presentation of the French Rafale jetfighter.
In the beginning of August 1996, Defense News reported that in two related secret deals, the Chinese are attempting to purchase Searchwater radar systems from Britain's Racal Electronics plc. The deal is estimated at 40 million British pounds, and will equip Chinese Y-8 aircraft for operations in the Taiwan Straits and the areas around the Spratley's and Paracels ("China pits U.K. vs. Israel in AEW quest", Defense News, August 5-11, 1996).
According to the Defense News report, the Chinese are also negotiating with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) in Lod, Israel for the purchase of a Phalcom radome radar system, which provides 360-degree coverage for fighters at a range of more than 200 nautical miles. The Israeli deal is estimated at US$ 250 million.
The military equipment purchases come in addition to a major Chinese purchase of 72 high performance Sukhoi-27 fighter aircraft from Russia (see Taiwan Communiqué no. 70, page 14), and the planned license to produce the Sukhoi in China. In a recent Asian Studies Center Backgrounder, the Washington-based Heritage Foundation detailed the Chinese Air Force expansion and concluded that they represent a threat to U.S. and Western interests in the region ("China's purchase of Russian fighters: A challenge to the U.S.", Heritage Foundation, July 31, 1996).
The Israeli sale appears to be part of a larger-scale trend in which according to a separate Defense News report "Israeli defense firms expect to make hundreds of millions of dollars in China .. through technology assistance, integration contracts and direct sales of weaponry, electronic warfare equipment and other subsystems." The technology transfer includes fighter technology for China's F-10 jetfighter program, which is largely based on Israel's Lavi advanced delta-wing canard design ("Israeli defense business shifts from Taiwan to China", Defense News, September 2-8, 1996).
Defense News reports that the shift was partly motivated by Israel's desire "...to persuade China not to sell sophisticated weaponry to Mideast nations hostile to Israel." However, Israeli sources admitted that "...defense ties (with China) have not yet resulted in reduced Chinese military exports to Iran, Syria, and other Mideast states."
Taiwan Communiqué comment: We strongly urge the British, French, and Israeli authorities to discontinue the respective sales to China immediately. It provides military assistance to a belligerent and repressive regime, which has openly threatened to use violence against its much smaller neighbors. Taiwan and other smaller neighbors of China view this assistance is a severe threat to their safety and security and a destabilizing factor in the East Asia region. In particular Israel, being a small nation in between a number of hostile larger neighbors, should be sensitive to these concerns and be supportive of the Taiwanese David defending itself against the Chinese Goliath.
In response to China's threats to Taiwan, the U.S. has indicated that it will assist Taiwan with new equipment to defend itself. On 23 August 1996, the U.S. State Department announced that the U.S. would go ahead with plans to sell some US$ 420 million worth of military equipment to Taiwan, including Stinger shoulder-fired missiles. The package has been in preparation for several years, but was finally implemented after China's military exercises and missile threats in the summer of 1995 and February-March 1996.
In a separate development, the U.S. made another positive move in August 1996 when Defense Secretary William Perry terminated the U.S.-China Joint Defense Conversion Commission (JDCC), which was set up in 1994. It offered American technology to the Chinese military for use in making civilian products. In return the Americans hoped naïvely China would convert its surplus defense factories to civilian purposes ("U.S. defense secretary axes his pet China project", Far Eastern Economic Review, August 22, 1996).
The decision to stop the program came after strong criticism in the U.S. Congress that the project made dual-use technology available to China, which it then used to upgrade its military capablilities. According to FEER reports in January 1996, Hua Mei Telecommunications, a Sino-US joint venture tied to the People's Liberation Army was using US technology to improve China' battlefield communications. In a related case, advanced machine tools sold by McDonnell Douglas ended up in a Chinese missile factory. The U.S. General Accounting Office and the Justice Department are investigating both cases.
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