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China Violating Missile Proliferation Controls, Cables State

July 14, 2011


Recently leaked U.S. diplomatic memos assert that China has flouted missile proliferation controls by selling the arms and their components to Pakistan, Iran and Syria, the Washington Times reported on Wednesday (see GSN, June 2).

A classified September 2009 State Department memo written ahead of a meeting of the 34-nation Missile Technology Control Regime repeatedly references a “lack of political will” on Beijing’s part to block Chinese firms from proliferating missile technology.

The Missile Technology Control Regime is a voluntary coalition of nations that aims to constrain the sale of missiles with traveling distances in excess of roughly 185 miles and explosive payloads weighing more than 1,100 pounds. It also works to head off the proliferation of missiles designed to carry weapons of mass destruction.

“Chinese authorities and firms fail to conduct sufficient evaluations of missile-applicable transactions or to take steps to know their customers,” states the cable, released by the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks.

“Other firms that are aware of the vulnerabilities in China’s export-control system take steps to conceal sensitive transactions and avoid detection, including by adopting new names and falsifying shipping documentation,” the cable reads. “Additionally, some firms may take advantage of government connections to skirt Chinese regulations.”

Examples of missile control regime breaches were exports made by the Chinese firm Dalian Sunny Industries to Iran, sales of ballistic missile components to Iran from Shanghai Technical Byproducts International, and exports of ballistic missile technology to Syria.

Dalian Sunny Industries was penalized in 2009 for exporting missile technology and material, while the Chinese company Bellamax was sanctioned that year as well for sales of gyroscopes, steel alloys and ball bearings.

A Chinese official in the cable was reported to have said missile export restrictions are “not meant to catch everything.” A different Chinese official was quoted as telling U.S. officials to cease criticizing Beijing on the issue as “China’s business is its own business.”

Ex-State Department intelligence analyst John Tkacik said assertions that the Chinese government did not have the political stomach to block missile exports were ridiculous: “In fact, the Chinese government is aiding and abetting the proliferation.”

The State Department memo says, “Until China addresses the persistent shortfalls in its export-control enforcement, ballistic-missile programs in countries of concern probably will continue to seek and receive MTCR-controlled … items from Chinese firms.”

A separate leaked memo from 2009 says Tehran was employing vehicle production plants as “a procurement cover for its missile programs,” an assertion that Tkacik said can be seen in the 2007 agreement by the Chinese car firm Chery Automobile to establish a manufacturing plant in Iran.

“Stating that commodities are intended for automobile manufacturing allows Iran a means of purchasing a variety of dual-use goods, particularly specialty metals and industrial machine tools … which also often are diverted to support its missile production and development efforts,” the second memo reads.

A third memo says North Korea’s missile development was aided through the acquisition of crucial components from outside companies, “most commonly China-based, given their proximity and access to technology that would be beneficial to North Korea’s missile program” (Bill Gertz, Washington Times, July 13).


  1. Chirs
    July 14, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    I’m sure China sold them some fabulous computer chips too… so they can steer those missiles where “they” want…

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