China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Congress has long been concerned about whether U.S. policy advances the national interest in
reducing the role of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction (WMD) and missiles that could deliver them. Recipients of China’s technology
reportedly include Pakistan and countries that the State Department says support terrorism, such
as Iran and North Korea. This CRS Report, updated as warranted, discusses the security problem
of China’s role in weapons proliferation and issues related to the U.S. policy response since the
mid-1990s. China has taken some steps to mollify U.S. and other foreign concerns about its role
in weapons proliferation. Nonetheless, supplies from China have aggravated trends that result in
ambiguous technical aid, more indigenous capabilities, longer-range missiles, and secondary
(retransferred) proliferation. According to unclassified intelligence reports submitted as required
to Congress, China has been a “key supplier” of technology to North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan
for use in programs to develop ballistic missiles, chemical weapons, or nuclear weapons.
Policy issues in seeking PRC cooperation have concerned summits, sanctions, and satellite
exports. On November 21, 2000, the Clinton Administration agreed to waive missile proliferation
sanctions, resume processing licenses to export satellites to China, and discuss an extension of the
bilateral space launch agreement, in return for another promise from China on missile
nonproliferation. However, ongoing PRC proliferation activities again raised questions about
sanctions. In contrast to the Clinton Administration, the Bush Administration repeatedly imposed
sanctions on PRC “entities” for troublesome transfers. On 20 occasions, the Bush Administration
imposed sanctions on 34 different PRC “entities” (not the government) for transfers (related to
missiles and chemical weapons) to Pakistan, Iran, or another country, including repeated
sanctions on some “serial proliferators.” Among those sanctions, in September 2001, the
Administration imposed missile proliferation sanctions that effectively denied satellite exports
(for two years), after a PRC company transferred technology to Pakistan, despite the November
2000 promise. In September 2003, the State Department imposed additional sanctions on
NORINCO, a defense industrial entity, effectively denying satellite exports to China. However,
for six times, the State Department waived this sanction for the ban on imports of other PRC
government products related to missiles, space systems, electronics, and military aircraft, and
then issued a permanent waiver in March 2007.
Skeptics question whether China’s cooperation in weapons nonproliferation has warranted the
U.S. pursuit of closer bilateral ties, even as sanctions were required against some PRC supplies of
sensitive technology. Some question the imposition of numerous U.S. sanctions targeting PRC
“entities” but not the PRC government. Others question the effectiveness of any stress on
sanctions over diplomacy. Since 2002, the United States has relied on China’s “considerable
influence” on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons and praised its role, but Beijing has
hosted the “Six-Party Talks” with limited results, while the United States resumed bilateral
negotiations with North Korea. China has evolved to vote for some U.N. Security Council
sanctions against nuclear proliferation but also has pursued balanced positions on North Korea
and Iran, including questionable enforcement of sanctions and continued economic and energy
deals. Some call for pressing Beijing to use effective leverage against Pyongyang and Tehran. The th
111 Congress might reassess U.S. policy to ensure more effective PRC cooperation in stemming
weapons proliferation in North Korea and Iran, including whether to impose sanctions against
foreign enterprises with deals in those countries.
Purpose and Scope...........................................................................................................................1
PRC Proliferation Challenges..........................................................................................................1
Partial Nonproliferation Commitments.....................................................................................1
Continuing Concerns and Intelligence Report..........................................................................2
Nuclear Technology Sales to Pakistan......................................................................................3
Overvi ew ....................................................................................................................... ...... 3
Ring Magnets and Another Pledge.....................................................................................3
Other Nuclear Cooperation.................................................................................................4
A. Q. Khan’s Nuclear Network...........................................................................................5
Missile Technology Sales to Pakistan.......................................................................................6
Overvi ew ....................................................................................................................... ...... 6
M-11 Missiles and Another Pledge.....................................................................................6
Missile Plants and MRBMs................................................................................................8
Nuclear Technology Sales to Iran.............................................................................................9
Overvi ew ....................................................................................................................... ...... 9
Canceled Nuclear Projects..................................................................................................9
Dual Approach and Oil Deals............................................................................................11
UNSC Resolutions and Sanctions.....................................................................................12
Missile Technology Sales to Iran............................................................................................15
Overvi ew ....................................................................................................................... .... 15
Chemical Sales to Iran............................................................................................................17
North Korea’s Missile and Nuclear Weapons Programs.........................................................19
Suspected Missile Supplies...............................................................................................19
Secret Nuclear Programs...................................................................................................20
PRC Ports and Airspace....................................................................................................21
Trilateral and Six-Party Talks in Beijing...........................................................................23
Missile Technology Sales to Libya.........................................................................................38
Missile Technology Sales to Syria..........................................................................................39
Missile Technology Sales to Iraq............................................................................................39
Policy Issues and Options..............................................................................................................40
Issues for Policy......................................................................................................................40
Debate ............................................................................................................................... 40
The PRC Government’s Role............................................................................................40
Foreign and Defense Policies..................................................................................................41
Summits ............................................................................................................................ 41
Proliferation Security Initiative and 9/11 Commission.....................................................43
Export Control Assistance.................................................................................................44
Linkage to the Taiwan Question.......................................................................................44
Sanctions and the “Helms Amendment”...........................................................................45
Nuclear Cooperation and U.S. Export of Reactors...........................................................48
U.S. Import Controls.........................................................................................................48
U.S. Export Controls.........................................................................................................48
Nonproliferation and Arms Control........................................................................................49
Nonproliferation Regimes (MTCR, NSG, etc.).................................................................49
CTBT and Fissile Materials Production............................................................................50
Table 1. PRC Entities Sanctioned for Weapons Proliferation........................................................51
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................58
Congress has long been concerned about whether U.S. policy advances U.S. security interests in
reducing the role of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction (WMD) and missiles as well as obtaining China’s cooperation in weapons
nonproliferation. This problem refers to the threat of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and
missiles that could deliver them. Some have argued that certain PRC transfers violated
international treaties or guidelines, and/or have contravened various U.S. laws requiring sanctions
to shore up those international standards. Even if no laws or treaties are violated, many view
China’s transfers as threatening U.S. security interests. Using a variety of unclassified
consultations and sources, this CRS Report discusses the national security problem of the PRC’s
role in weapons proliferation and issues related to the U.S. policy response, including legislation,
since the mid-1990s. Table 1, at the end of this report, summarizes the U.S. sanctions imposed or
waived on PRC entities or the PRC government for weapons proliferation. For a discussion of the
policy problem in the 1980s to 1996, see CRS Report 96-767, Chinese Proliferation of Weapons
of Mass Destruction: Background and Analysis, by Shirley A. Kan. See also, by the same author,
CRS Report 98-485, China: Possible Missile Technology Transfers Under U.S. Satellite Export
Policy—Actions and Chronology.
Since 1991, Beijing has taken steps to address U.S. and other countries’ concerns by increasing its
partial participation in international nonproliferation regimes and issuing export control
regulations. However, questions have remained. China first promised tentatively to abide by the
Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in November 1991 and February 1992 and later
reaffirmed that commitment in an October 4, 1994 joint statement with the United States. The
MTCR, set up in 1987, is not an international agreement and has no legal authority, leaving issues
about U.S. sanctions to shore up the standards unresolved. It is a set of voluntary guidelines that
seeks to control the transfer of ballistic and cruise missiles that are inherently capable of
delivering at least a 500 kg (1,100 lb) payload to at least 300 km (186 mi), called “Category I” or
“MTCR-class” missiles. It was unclear whether China adhered to the revised MTCR guidelines of
1993 calling for the presumption to deny transfers of any missiles capable of delivering any
WMD (not just nuclear weapons). A 1996 State Department fact sheet said that China unilaterally
committed to controlling exports “consistent with the MTCR Guidelines and Annex,” with the
MTCR consisting of a common export control policy (Guidelines) applied to a common list of
controlled items (Annex). However, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report of September
11, 2000, said the State Department had argued to Congress that China agreed to the MTCR
Guidelines, but not the Annex.
On November 21, 2000, Beijing said that it has no intention of assisting any other country in
developing ballistic missiles that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons (missiles with payloads
of at least 500 kg and ranges of at least 300 km) and promised to issue missile-related export
controls “as soon as possible.” After a contentious period that saw new U.S. sanctions, the PRC
finally published those regulations and the control list (modeled on the MTCR) on August 25,
2002, as Washington and Beijing prepared for a Bush-Jiang summit on October 25, 2002. In
China acceded to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) on March 9, 1992. The NPT does
not ban peaceful nuclear projects. On May 11, 1996, the PRC issued a statement promising to
make only safeguarded nuclear transfers. China, on July 30, 1996, began a moratorium on nuclear
testing and signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in September 1996 but (like the
United States) has not ratified it. Premier Li Peng issued nuclear export control regulations on
September 10, 1997. On October 16, 1997, China joined the Zangger Committee (on nuclear
trade). Also in October 1997, China promised not to start new nuclear cooperation with Iran. On
June 6, 1998, the U.N. Security Council (including China) adopted Resolution 1172, asking states
to prevent exports to India or Pakistan’s nuclear weapon or missile programs. The PRC issued
regulations on dual-use nuclear exports on June 17, 1998. In May 2004, China applied to join the
Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which accepted China as a member after the Bush
Administration decided to support China, despite congressional concerns.
In 1995, China issued its first public defense white paper, which focused on arms control and
disarmament. Also, China signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in January 1993. On
April 25, 1997, China deposited its instrument of ratification of the CWC, before it entered into
force on April 29, 1997. From 1993 to1998, the PRC issued export control regulations on
chemicals. On October 14, 2002, on the eve of a Bush-Jiang summit, the PRC issued regulations
for export controls over dual-use biological agents and related technology. On December 3, 2003,
China issued a white paper on nonproliferation, which stated that its control lists are almost the
same as those of the Zangger Committee, NSG, CWC, Australia Group, and MTCR.
Nevertheless, China is not a member of the MTCR or the Australia Group (AG) (on chemical and
biological weapons). (In June 2004, China expressed willingness to join the MTCR.) China did
not join the 93 countries in signing the International Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile
Proliferation in The Hague on November 25, 2002. China has not joined the Proliferation
Security Initiative (PSI) announced by President Bush on May 31, 2003. PRC weapons
proliferation has persisted, aggravating trends that result in more ambiguous technical assistance
(vs. transfers of hardware), longer range missiles, more indigenous capabilities, and secondary
(i.e., retransferred) proliferation.
The Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) noted that, for July-December 1996, “China was the
most significant supplier of WMD-related goods and technology to foreign countries.” As
required by Section 721 of the FY1997 Intelligence Authorization Act, P.L. 104-293, the DCI’s
report to Congress, “Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating
to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions,” has named China (plus
North Korea and Russia) as “key suppliers” of dangerous technology. Subsequent discussions of
this required report refer to this “Section 721 report.” Original legislation required a semi-annual
report. The FY2004 Intelligence Authorization Act (P.L. 108-177) changed the requirement to an
annual report. The Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis submitted the latest 1
unclassified Section 721 report in November 2008 to cover the year of 2007.
1 Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis, “Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of
In 1996, U.S. policymakers faced the issue of whether to impose sanctions on the PRC for
technology transfers to Pakistan’s nuclear program, and Beijing issued another nuclear
nonproliferation pledge. Since then, the United States has maintained concerns—but at a lower
level—about continued PRC nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, particularly involving the
construction of nuclear power plants at Chashma. The PRC government is believed to know
about some, if not all, of the ongoing nuclear cooperation with Pakistan. Nonetheless, in 2004, the
Bush Administration supported China’s application to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG),
despite Congressional concerns about China’s failure to apply the NSG’s “full-scope safeguards”
to its nuclear projects in Pakistan. (Full-scope safeguards apply IAEA inspections to all other
declared nuclear facilities in addition to the facility importing supplies in order to prevent
diversions to any weapon programs.)
In 1996, some in Congress called for sanctions after reports disclosed that China sold
unsafeguarded ring magnets to Pakistan, apparently in violation of the NPT and in contradiction
of U.S. laws, including the Arms Export Control Act (P.L. 90-629) and Export-Import Bank Act
(P.L. 79-173), as amended by the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act of 1994 (Title VIII of P.L.
103-236). On February 5, 1996, the Washington Times disclosed intelligence reports that the
China National Nuclear Corporation, a state-owned corporation, transferred to the A.Q. Khan
Research Laboratory in Kahuta, Pakistan, 5,000 ring magnets that can be used in gas centrifuges
to enrich uranium. Reportedly, intelligence experts believed that the magnets provided to Pakistan
were to be used in special suspension bearings at the top of rotating cylinders in the centrifuges.
The New York Times, on May 12, 1996, reported that the shipment was made after June 1994 and
was worth $70,000. The PRC company involved was China Nuclear Energy Industry
Corporation, a subsidiary of the China National Nuclear Corporation. The State Department’s
report on nonproliferation efforts in South Asia (issued on January 21, 1997) confirmed that
“between late 1994 and mid-1995, a Chinese entity transferred a large number of ring magnets to
Pakistan for use in its uranium enrichment program.”
The Clinton Administration’s decision-making was complicated by considerations of U.S.
corporations doing business in China. Officials reportedly considered imposing then waiving
sanctions or focusing sanctions only on the China National Nuclear Corporation, rather than
large-scale sanctions affecting the entire PRC government and U.S. companies, such as
Westinghouse Electric Corporation (which had deals pending with China National Nuclear
Corporation) and Boeing Aircraft Company. At the end of February 1996, Secretary of State
Warren Christopher instructed the Export-Import Bank to suspend financing for commercial deals
in China for one month, reported the New York Times (February 29, 1996). Christopher reportedly
required time to try to obtain more information to make a determination of whether sanctions
would be required. Meanwhile, DCI John Deutch reportedly said at a White House meeting that
Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, Covering 1 January to
31 December 2007,” November 19, 2008.
PRC officials at some level likely approved the sale of magnets. Defense Secretary William Perry
supported this view, but officials of the Commerce and Treasury Departments and the U.S. Trade
Representative argued there was lack of solid proof, according to the Washington Post (April 1,
On May 10, 1996, the State Department announced that China and Pakistan would not be
sanctioned, citing a new agreement with China. Clinton Administration officials said that China
promised to provide future assistance only to safeguarded nuclear facilities, reaffirmed its
commitment to nuclear nonproliferation, and agreed to consultations on export control and
proliferation issues. The Administration also said that PRC leaders insisted they were not aware
of the magnet transfer and that there was no evidence that the PRC government had willfully
aided or abetted Pakistan’s nuclear weapon program through the magnet transfer. Thus, the State
Department announced that sanctions were not warranted, and Export-Import Bank
considerations of loans for U.S. exporters to China were returned to normal. On May 11, 1996,
China’s foreign ministry issued a statement that “China will not provide assistance to
unsafeguarded nuclear facilities.” In any case, since 1984, China has declared a policy of nuclear
nonproliferation and a requirement for recipients of its transfers to accept IAEA safeguards, and
China acceded to the NPT in 1992.
That year, Congress responded to the Administration’s determination not to impose sanctions by
adding language on “persons” in the Export-Import Bank Act, as amended by Section 1303 of the
National Defense Authorization Act for FY1997 (P.L. 104-201), enacted on September 23, 1996.
On October 9, 1996, the Washington Times reported that a CIA report dated September 14, 1996,
said that China sold a “special industrial furnace” and “high-tech diagnostic equipment” to
unsafeguarded nuclear facilities in Pakistan. In September 1996, PRC technicians in Pakistan
reportedly prepared to install the dual-use equipment. The deal was allegedly made by the China
Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation, the same firm which sold the ring magnets. Those who
suspected that the transfer was intended for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program said that high
temperature furnaces are used to mold uranium or plutonium. The CIA report was said to state
that “senior-level government approval probably was needed” and that PRC officials planned to
submit false documentation on the final destination of the equipment. According to the press, the
CIA report said that the equipment was set to arrive in early September 1996. The Washington
Post, on October 10, 1996, further reported that the equipment was intended for a nuclear reactor
to be completed by 1998 at Khushab in Pakistan. On October 9, 1996, the State Department said
that it had not concluded that China violated its promise of May 11, 1996. However, the State
Department did not publicly address whether the suspected transfers occurred before May 11,
Export-Import Bank Act, and the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act).
Concerns have persisted about PRC assistance to Pakistan’s nuclear facilities. As reported by
Pakistani and PRC news sources in 1992, China began to build a nuclear power plant at Chashma
and was suspected in 1994 of helping Pakistan to build an unsafeguarded, plutonium-producing
reactor at Khushab, according to Nucleonics Week (June 19, 1997 and February 26, 1998).
Operational since 2001, the Chashma reactor has IAEA safeguards but not full scope safeguards
(Nucleonics Week, April 26, 2001; and IAEA, Annual Report 2001).
Referring specifically to Pakistan’s efforts to acquire equipment, materials, and technology for its
nuclear weapons program, the DCI’s June 1997 “Section 721 report” for the last half of 1996
(after China’s May 1996 pledge) stated that China was the “principal supplier.” Then, on May 11
and 13, 1998, India conducted nuclear tests, citing China’s nuclear ties to Pakistan, and Pakistan
followed with nuclear tests on May 28 and 30, 1998. China, as Pakistan’s principal military and
nuclear supplier, failed to avert the tests and did not cut off nuclear aid, but condemned the tests
at the U.N. The Arms Control and Disarmament Agency’s annual report on arms control for 1998
stated that “there continued to be some contacts between Chinese entities and Pakistan’s
unsafeguarded and nuclear weapons program.”
In 2000, news reports said that some former U.S. nonproliferation and intelligence officials
suspected that China provided equipment for Pakistan’s secret heavy water production plant at
Khushab, where an unsafeguarded reactor reportedly started up in April 1998 and has generated
weapons-grade plutonium. Clinton Administration officials at the White House and State
Department reportedly denied China’s involvement but said that they did not know the origins of 2
the plant. The DCI reported in November 2003 that, in the first half of 2003, continued contacts
between PRC entities and “entities associated with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program” cannot
be ruled out, despite the PRC’s 1996 promise not to assist unsafeguarded nuclear facilities. The
Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, testified to the
Senate Intelligence Committee on February 24, 2004, that PRC entities “remain involved with
nuclear and missile programs in Pakistan and Iran,” while “in some cases,” the entities are
involved without the government’s knowledge, thus implying that there are cases in which the
PRC government has knowledge of the relationships.
On May 5, 2004, China signed a contract to build a second nuclear power reactor (Chashma-2) in
Pakistan. This contract raised questions because of continuing PRC nuclear cooperation with
Pakistan and its signing right before a decision by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on China’s
membership, with U.S. support. With a pre-existing contract, Chashma-2 would be exempted 3
from the NSG’s requirement for full-scope safeguards (not just IAEA safeguards on the reactor).
(See Nonproliferation Regimes (MTCR, NSG, etc.) below for policy discussion.) After China’s
last step of covering the Chashma-2 reactor under a pre-existing contract, the United States and
other countries have to monitor China’s subsequent agreement in October 2008 to build two more
nuclear reactors in Pakistan for compliance with the NSG’s rules, unless there is an exemption 4
(like that for India).
China’s past and persisting connections to Pakistan’s nuclear program raised questions about
whether China was involved in or had knowledge about the long-time efforts, publicly confirmed
in early 2004, of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the former head of Pakistan’s nuclear weapon program, in
selling uranium enrichment technology to Iran, North Korea, and Libya. DCI George Tenet
confirmed A.Q. Khan’s network of nuclear trade in open testimony to the Senate Intelligence
Committee on February 24, 2004.
2 Mark Hibbs, “CIA Knew About Khushab D2O Plant but Not Source, Officials Claim,” Nucleonics Week, March 23,
2000; “Pakistani Separation Plant Now Producing 8-10 Kg Plutonium/Yr,” Nuclear Fuel, June 12, 2000.
3 “Pakistan, China Agree on Second Chashma Unit,” Nucleonics Week, May 6, 2004.
4 Daily Times, Lahore, October 19; Nucleonics Week, October 23; Jane’s Defense Weekly, October 29, 2008.
China’s association was raised particularly because China was an early recipient of the uranium 5
enrichment technology Khan acquired in Europe. Also, there were questions about whether
China shared intelligence with the United States about Khan’s nuclear technology transfers. With
the troubling disclosures, China could be more willing to cooperate on nonproliferation or could
be reluctant to confirm its involvement. A senior Pakistani diplomat was quoted as saying that,
while in Beijing in 2002, PRC officials said they knew “A.Q. Khan was in China and bribing 6
people, and they wanted him out.” Particularly troubling was the reported intelligence finding in
early 2004 that Khan sold Libya a nuclear bomb design that he received from China in the early
tested in 1966 and had developed as a compact nuclear bomb for delivery on a missile. That
finding raised the additional question of whether Khan also sold that bomb design to others,
including Iran and North Korea. DCI Porter Goss testified in February 2005 that the Bush
Administration continued to explore opportunities to learn about Khan’s nuclear trade, adding
that “getting to the end of that trail is extremely important for us. It is a serious proliferation 8
From the early 1990s to 2000, the George H.W. Bush and Clinton Administrations faced the issue
of whether to impose sanctions on PRC “entities” for transferring M-11 short-range ballistic
missiles or related technology to Pakistan. The Clinton Administration took eight years to
determine in 2000 that PRC entities had transferred complete M-11 missiles as well as technology
to Pakistan, but waived sanctions in return for another missile nonproliferation pledge from
Beijing. However, despite that promise of November 2000, the United States has continued
concerns about PRC technology transfers that have helped Pakistan to build domestic missile
programs, including development of medium-range ballistic missiles. In September 2001, the
George W. Bush Administration imposed sanctions for PRC proliferation of missile technology to
Pakistan, denying satellite exports to China.
Transfers of the PRC’s M-11 short range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) or related equipment exceed
MTCR guidelines, because the M-11 has the inherent capability to deliver a 500 kg (1,100 lb)
warhead to 300 km (186 mi). Issues about U.S. sanctions have included the questions of whether
PRC transfers to Pakistan involved M-11 missile-related technology (Category II of the MTCR)
or complete missiles (Category I). Sanctions for missile-related transfers are mandated under
5 David Sanger and William Broad, “From Rogue Nuclear Programs, Web of Trails Leads to Pakistan,” New York
Times, January 4, 2004.
6 Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer, “Unprecedented Peril Forces Tough Calls,” Washington Post, October 26, 2004.
7 Joby Warrick and Peter Slevin, “Libyan Arms Designs Traced Back to China,” Washington Post, February 15, 2004;
William Broad and David Sanger, “As Nuclear Secrets Emerge in Khan Inquiry, More Are Suspected,” New York
Times, December 26, 2004.
8 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, hearing on “Global Intelligence Challenges 2005: Meeting Long-term
Challenges with a Long-term Strategy,” February 16, 2005.
Section 73(a) of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and Section 11B(b)(1) of the Export
Administration Act (EAA) (as amended by the FY1991 National Defense Authorization Act).
In June 1991, the Bush Administration first imposed sanctions on entities in China for
transferring M-11 technology to Pakistan. Sanctions affected exports of supercomputers,
satellites, and missile technology. The Administration later waived the sanctions on March 23,
1992. On August 24, 1993, the Clinton Administration determined that China had again
transferred M-11 equipment (not whole missiles) to Pakistan and imposed new sanctions
(affecting exports of some satellites). On October 4, 1994, Secretary of State Warren Christopher
and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen signed a joint statement, saying that Washington would waive
the August 1993 sanctions and Beijing would not export “ground-to-ground missiles” “inherently
capable” of delivering a 500 kg warhead 300 km. The Administration waived the sanctions on
November 1, 1994.
However, contentious policy questions about imposing sanctions for the 1992 transfer of
complete M-11 SRBMs (not just components) persisted until 2000. The Washington Times
(March 14, 1997) said “numerous” intelligence reports indicated that M-11 missiles were
“operational” in Pakistan, but these findings were disputed by some policymakers. Secretary of
Defense William Cohen issued a Pentagon report in 1997 stating that Pakistan acquired “SRBMs” 9
as well as related equipment from China in the early 1990s. In a 1998 report to Congress on
nuclear nonproliferation in South Asia, the State Department acknowledged its concerns about
“reports that M-11 missiles were transferred from China to Pakistan” but added that it had not 10
determined that such transfers occurred, “which would be sanctionable under U.S. law.” Gordon
Oehler, former head of the CIA’s Nonproliferation Center, testified on June 11, 1998, to the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee that in November 1992, “the Chinese delivered 34 M-11s to
Pakistan.” In July 1998, the Rumsfeld Commission said that China had transferred complete M-11
Some said that sanctions were not imposed for transfers of complete M-11s, because the missiles
remained inside crates at Sagodha Air Base, according to the Wall Street Journal (December 15,
1998). Critics in Congress said the Clinton Administration avoided making determinations of
whether to impose sanctions, by delaying tactics, re-writing reports, and setting high evidentiary
standards. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee issued a report in September 2000, saying
that the Administration avoided such determinations by the use of “bureaucratic maneuvers” to
delay the drafting of “Statements/Findings of Fact” by the intelligence community and by not 12
scheduling interagency meetings to consider those findings.
On September 9, 1999, the intelligence community publicly confirmed for the first time that 13
“Pakistan has M-11 SRBMs from China” and that they may have a nuclear role. However, the
State Department argued on September 14, 1999, that it required a “high standard of evidence”
9 Office of the Secretary of Defense, Proliferation: Threat and Response, November 1997.
10 Department of State, “Report on Nuclear Nonproliferation in South Asia,” March 17, 1998.
11 Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States (popularly known as the Rumsfeld
Commission), report, July 15, 1998.
12 Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Chairman’s Overview of China’s Proliferation Track Record,” September 11,
13 National Intelligence Council, “Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States
Through 2015,” September 1999.
and had not yet determined that Category I sanctions were warranted, despite the intelligence
judgment. (Category I sanctions would deny licenses for exports of Munitions List items, among
other actions, and Congress transferred satellites back to the Munitions List, effective March 15,
1999.) The Far Eastern Economic Review reported on May 18, 2000, that the Clinton
Administration and Senator Helms of the Foreign Relations Committee struck a deal in 1999 that
required a decision on sanctions for the PRC’s M-11 transfer to Pakistan in exchange for the
confirmation of Robert Einhorn as Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation (approved on
November 3, 1999). On November 21, 2000, the Clinton Administration said it determined that
PRC entities had transferred Category I and Category II missile-related items to Pakistani entities,
and sanctions would be waived on the PRC for past transfers, given its new missile
While China promised not to transfer missiles, it has reportedly helped Pakistan to achieve an
indigenous missile capability. U.S. intelligence reportedly concluded in a National Intelligence
Estimate that China provided blueprints and equipment to Pakistan to build a plant for making
missiles that would violate the MTCR, according to the Washington Post (August 25, 1996).
Analysts disagreed, however, about whether the plant would manufacture some major missile
components or whole copies of the M-11 missile. Construction of the plant allegedly began in
1995. On August 25, 1996, Vice President Al Gore acknowledged concerns about the plant. Time
reported on June 30, 1997, that the Clinton Administration would not discuss possible sanctions
based on intelligence on the missile plant. The November 1997 report of the Secretary of Defense
also confirmed Pakistan’s facility “for the production of a 300 kilometer range ballistic missile.”
By 1998, the missile plant in Fatehjung was almost finished, awaiting delivery of crucial
equipment from China, reported the Wall Street Journal (December 15, 1998).
On April 6, 1998, Pakistan first tested its nuclear-capable Ghauri (Hatf-5) medium-range ballistic
missile (MRBM), which is based on the North Korean No Dong missile. U.S. intelligence was
said to suspect that China Poly Ventures Company delivered, perhaps in 1999, U.S.-made
specialized metal-working presses and a special furnace to Pakistan’s National Development
Center, a missile plant, reported the Washington Times (April 15, 1999). China reportedly was
building a second missile plant and providing specialty steel, guidance systems, and technical aid,
said the Far Eastern Economic Review (June 22, 2000) and New York Times (July 2, 2000).
Apparently confirming these stories, the DCI’s “Section 721 report” wrote that in August 2000,
besides North Korean help, PRC entities provided “increased assistance” to Pakistan’s ballistic
missile program in the second half of 1999. Also, China has assisted Pakistan with development
of the Shaheen-2 two-stage, solid-fuel MRBM, reported Jane’s Defense Weekly (December 13,
2000). DCI George Tenet confirmed U.S. concerns about such assistance in testimony on
February 7, 2001, before the Senate Intelligence Committee, and in his February 2001 report on
Despite the PRC’s November 2000 missile nonproliferation pledge, in the first several months of
2001, a PRC company reportedly delivered 12 shipments of missile components to Pakistan’s
Shaheen-1 SRBM and Shaheen-2 MRBM programs, according to the Washington Times (August
6, 2001). On September 1, 2001, the State Department imposed sanctions on China Metallurgical
Equipment Corporation (CMEC) for proliferation of missile technology (Category II items of the
MTCR) to Pakistan. In November 2004, the DCI told Congress in a “Section 721 report” that, in
the second half of 2003, PRC entities helped Pakistan to advance toward serial production of
solid-fuel SRBMs (previously identified as the Shaheen-1, Abdali, and Ghaznavi) and supported
Pakistan’s development of solid-fuel MRBMs (previously noted as the Shaheen-2 MRBM). The
DNI’s “Section 721 report” of May 2007 reported to Congress that PRC “entities” continued in
In the mid-1990s, the Clinton Administration urged China to cancel ostensibly civilian nuclear
projects in Iran. In negotiations leading up to the 1997 U.S.-PRC summit, China pledged to end
nuclear cooperation with Iran. At the summit, President Clinton promised to implement the 1985
U.S.-PRC nuclear cooperation agreement (to sell nuclear power reactors to China). However, the
United States has continued concerns about whether China has abided by its October 1997
promise. With new reports in 2002 about Iran’s uranium enrichment program, the Bush
Administration, starting in 2004, sought PRC support for sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security
Council (UNSC). The PRC’s position has evolved to support some sanctions but not use of force.
Suspecting that Iran uses nuclear technology to build the technical infrastructure for its
clandestine nuclear weapon program, Washington urged Beijing (and Moscow) not to transfer any
nuclear technology to Iran. In 1995, China suspended a sale of nuclear reactors to Iran. Indicating
Israeli influence, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly stated in August 1997 that PRC
Vice Premier Li Lanqing said that China canceled plans to build the reactors.
However, there were other controversial PRC nuclear deals with Iran pointing to an Iranian
nuclear weapon program. PRC technicians built a calutron, or electromagnetic isotope separation
system, for enriching uranium at the Karaj nuclear research facility, according to “confidential
reports” submitted to Iranian President Rafsanjani by his senior aides, according to the London
Sunday Telegraph (as reported in the September 25, 1995 Washington Times). As reported, the
PRC system was similar to the one used in Iraq’s secret uranium enrichment program. Secretary
of Defense William Perry confirmed in an April 1996 report that “the Iranians have purchased an 14
electromagnetic isotope separation unit from China.”
The China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation had plans to sell Iran a facility to convert
uranium ore into uranium hexafluoride gas, which could be enriched to weapons-grade material,
according to the Washington Post (April 17, 1995; June 20, 1996). Intelligence reports said that
the deal proceeded with PRC nuclear experts going to Iran to build the new uranium conversion
plant near Isfahan, reported the Washington Times (April 17, 1996). However, PRC civilian
nuclear officials later indicated to the IAEA and U.S. officials that China would not transfer the
uranium conversion facility, ostensibly because of Iran’s inability to pay, reported the Washington
Post (November 6, 1996). China’s role as nuclear supplier may have been affected by Iran’s turn
to Russian reactors. Also, China might have responded to concerns of Israel (after Russia, the
secondary supplier to China’s military).
14 Office of the Secretary of Defense, Proliferation: Threat and Response, April 1996.
China’s concern about its standing with the United States was also important. State Department
official Robert Einhorn told Congress that China canceled the uranium conversion project but had
provided Iran with a blueprint to build the facility, reported the Washington Post (September 18,
1997). On the eve of a U.S.-China summit in Washington in October 1997, PRC Foreign Minister
Qian Qichen provided a secret letter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, promising not to
begin new nuclear cooperation with Iran, after building a small nuclear research reactor and a
factory to fabricate zirconium cladding to encase fuel rods in nuclear reactors, according to the
Washington Post (October 30, 1997). U.S. officials said the projects would not be significant for
After President Clinton signed certifications in January 1998 to implement the 1985 bilateral
nuclear cooperation agreement, as promised at the 1997 summit, the Washington Post (March 13,
1998, Clinton Administration officials disclosed negotiations in January 1998 between the China
Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation and Iran’s Isfahan Nuclear Research Center to provide “a
lifelong supply” of hundreds of tons of anhydrous hydrogen fluoride (AHF), or hydrofluoric acid,
under falsified documents about end-users. (The AHF chemical could be used to produce uranium
hexafluoride used in uranium conversion facilities. AHF is also a precursor for the chemical
weapon agent Sarin.) According to the press, after Washington protested, Beijing stopped the sale.
The Administration argued that Beijing responded positively and that the chemical is controlled
by the Australia Group and not on a nuclear control list. Later, an April 2, 1999 U.S. intelligence
report was said to suggest that the China Non-metallic Minerals Industrial Import/Export
Corporation “revived” negotiations with the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization on the
construction of a plant to produce graphite (used as a moderator in some reactors), reported the
Washington Times (April 15, 1999).
In a February 2001 “Section 721 report” (on the first half of 2000), the DCI dropped an earlier
observation that the 1997 pledge appeared to be holding. In testimony before the Senate
Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation, and Federal Services
on June 6, 2002, Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf stated concerns about possible PRC-
Iranian interactions “despite China’s 1997 pledge to end its nuclear cooperation with Iran.”
In 2002, an Iranian opposition group revealed that Iranian front companies procured materials
from China (and other countries) for secret nuclear weapons facilities, while experts from China
worked at a uranium mine at Saghand and a centrifuge facility (for uranium enrichment) near
Isfahan, reported the Washington Post (December 19, 2002 and February 20, 2003). Moreover,
Nucleonics Week (February 27 and March 6, 2003) reported that Iran, since 2000, was building a
secret uranium enrichment plant at Natanz with technology for gas centrifuge enrichment from
Pakistan (Khan Research Laboratories), a country that has received nuclear cooperation from
China. Also, the IAEA found out in 2003 that, in 1991, China supplied Iran with 1.8 metric tons
of natural uranium, reported Nucleonics Week (June 12, 2003). The head of the Iranian Atomic 15
Organization reported an Iranian-PRC contract to extract uranium ore in Yazd. The DCI’s
15 Mehr News Agency, Tehran, December 10, 2004, via FBIS.
“Section 721 report” (issued in November 2004) confirmed that the Iranian opposition group,
“beginning in August of 2002, revealed several previously undisclosed Iranian nuclear facilities.”
In testimony to Congress on February 11, 2003, DCI George Tenet pointed to China’s “firms”
(rather than the government) and warned that they “may be backing away from Beijing’s 1997
bilateral commitment to forego any new nuclear cooperation with Iran.” The DCI’s “Section 721
report” of November 2003 reported that “some interactions of concern” between PRC and Iranian
entities continued in the first half of 2003. The Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Vice
Admiral Lowell Jacoby, testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 24, 2004, that
PRC entities “remain involved with nuclear and missile programs in Pakistan and Iran, while, “in
some cases,” the entities are involved without the PRC government’s knowledge. Then, in April
2004, the Administration imposed sanctions under the Iran Nonproliferation Act. Assistant
Secretary of State John Wolf testified to the House International Relations Committee on May 18,
2004, that “most” of the sanctions related to non-nuclear transfers, but there were concerns in the
nuclear area as well.
In May 2006, diplomatic sources revealed that Iran had used uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6)
from China to accelerate Iran’s uranium enrichment program. An Iranian news agency
acknowledged that hexafluoride from China was used in initial uranium enrichment, after which 16
domestic supplies were applied.
The United States has sought China’s cooperation (with its veto power) at the IAEA and U.N. to
achieve the U.S. and European objective of containing Iran’s suspected nuclear weapon program
by having the IAEA refer Iran’s case to the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) for sanctions in
response to Iran’s alleged violation of the NPT. While it might share U.S. concerns about nuclear
nonproliferation, China has expressed reservations about sanctions and the credibility of some
U.S. intelligence. Moreover, China’s own “entities” have supplied sensitive technology to Iran.
Beijing might have interests in raising its leverage vis-à-vis Washington, and some say those
interests include checking U.S. influence and support for Tibet and Taiwan. More critical Russian
nuclear cooperation with Iran has offered China maneuvering room in multilateral diplomacy.
Meanwhile, China has a competing priority of economic ties with Iran to fuel continued
economic growth and opposes sanctions that would target energy deals. In 2007, Iran was the
third largest foreign supplier of crude oil to China (after Saudi Arabia and Angola). Imports from
Iran increased 34% in value over imports from Iran in 2006 and were 13% of total imports. There
is a concern that China’s economic interests in Iran, including multi-billion-dollar oil and gas
deals, have undermined rising U.S. and European pressure on and isolation of Iran. In October
2004, China and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding for a deal in oil and gas sales
initially worth $70 billion. Amid ongoing negotiations between China’s SINOPEC group and
Iran, this potential deal was valued at up to $100 billion in early 2006. In December 2007,
SINOPEC signed the contract for development of the Yadavaran oilfield, and the State
Department responded with “disappointment.” In addition to SINOPEC, CNOOC and an Iranian
company signed a memorandum of understanding in December 2006 involving an investment
from China worth $16 billion to produce liquefied natural gas in Iran. In January 2007, China
16 “Iran Using Chinese-made Feedstock for Enriched Uranium: Diplomats,” AFP, May 18, 2006; Iranian Students
News Agency, May 19, 2006.
National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) announced negotiations in an offshore gas project in 17th
Iran worth $3.6 billion. The 110 Congress considered legislation to impose additional
sanctions on Iran (H.R. 1400; H.R. 3390; S. 970; S. 3227) that would, inter alia, also express the
sense of Congress that the United States should encourage foreign governments to direct state-
owned enterprises to cease investments in Iran’s energy sector as well as exports to and imports
from Iran of refined petroleum products. The House passed H.R. 1400 on September 25, 2007.
On November 5, 2004, China’s Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing talked with Secretary of State
Powell, saying that the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program should remain under the IAEA’s
handling. On the next day, Li arrived in Tehran and expressed opposition to referral of Iran’s case 18
to the UNSC. Then, at a meeting on the sideline of a U.N. summit in New York on September
13, 2005, President Bush tried to persuade PRC ruler Hu Jintao not to block the IAEA from
referring Iran’s case to the UNSC. Before the meeting, the Administration briefed China on U.S.
classified intelligence about Iran’s development of the Shahab-3 missile that could deliver a
nuclear warhead. China (and others) abstained when the IAEA passed a resolution on September
continued to call for dealing with Iran at the IAEA. In Beijing in November 2005, President
Bush said that he had to repeat to Hu Jintao the need to cooperate to prevent Iran from developing 20
The situation escalated on January 10, 2006, when Iran resumed work on uranium enrichment,
after allowing IAEA inspectors to place seals on equipment at an enrichment plant at Natanz and
starting negotiations with Britain, France, and Germany two years before. Deputy Secretary of
State Robert Zoellick visited Beijing January 24-25, 2006, to stress the importance of the Iran
problem, continue the “Senior Dialogue” over the PRC’s role as a “responsible stakeholder,” and
discuss a summit on April 20 between PRC leader Hu Jintao and President Bush in Washington.
At a news conference in Beijing on January 24, Zoellick acknowledged differences with China
over “diplomatic tactics.” At a special meeting in London on January 30, China, France,
Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States announced their agreement to “report”
(rather than “refer”) Iran’s case to the UNSC at the special IAEA meeting in early February but to
wait until March to decide at the Security Council on any actions to support the IAEA (without 21
mentioning sanctions). Still, on February 4, China was one of 27 countries that voted at the
IAEA to support a resolution to report Iran to the UNSC, showing some progress in China’s
cooperation since it abstained on a resolution on Iran in September 2005.
When the IAEA sent a report on Iran to the Security Council on March 8, 2006, saying that it
could not conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran, China
17 Global Trade Atlas; Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, February 17, 2006; China Daily, January 6, 2007;
AFP, January 11 and 15, 2007; Fars News Agency, January 16, 2007; Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network,
December 9, 2007; Reuters, December 10, 2007.
18 Zhongguo Wang, Beijing, October 31, 2004; Xinhua, Beijing, November 5, 2004; IRNA, Tehran, November 6, 2004;
Xinhua, Beijing, November 8, 2004 (via FBIS).
19 New York Times, September 14, 2005; Wall Street Journal, September 14, 2005; AFP, September 24, 2005; and
Xinhua [New China News Agency], September 24, 2005.
20 George Bush, interview with Phoenix TV, based in Hong Kong, November 9, 2005.
21 “Permanent Five Say IAEA Must Report Iran to U.N.,” Reuters, January 31, 2006.
continued to be less critical of Iran and to favor the handling of this issue at the IAEA rather than
the Security Council. On March 29, 2006, after weeks of negotiations, the Security Council
issued a statement through its president, calling on Iran to suspend all nuclear enrichment and
reprocessing activities to be verified by the IAEA and requesting an IAEA report in 30 days to the
IAEA Board of Governors “and in parallel” to the Security Council, with no mention of
sanctions. The Administration called for a UNSC resolution that invokes Chapter VII of the U.N.
Charter (for sanctions or force), but the PRC argued against such action despite the IAEA’s April
On May 31, 2006, Secretary of State Rice announced U.S. support for a new approach to offer a
package of incentives and costs for Iran’s compliance, agreed by China and others on June 1.
However to U.S. displeasure, on June 16, the PRC hosted a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation
Organization (SCO), at which Iran attended as an observer. PRC President Hu Jintao balanced his
remarks to Iranian President Ahmadinejad by saying that Iran has a right to nuclear energy and
calling for its response to the offer. But with no Iranian response, on July 12, China and the other
five countries issued a statement agreeing to a two-stage approach: to seek a UNSC resolution to
make it mandatory for Iran to suspend nuclear enrichment as required by the IAEA; and if Iran
refuses, to adopt measures under Article 41 (specifically for sanctions, vs. use of force) of
After Iran announced that it would respond on August 22, 2006, China voted on July 31 with
other members of the UNSC (except Qatar) for Resolution 1696, demanding that Iran suspend
nuclear enrichment; calling upon countries to prevent technology transfers to Iran’s nuclear
enrichment and missile programs; requesting an IAEA report on Iran’s compliance by August 31;
and warning of sanctions if Iran does not comply. After negotiations over Russian and PRC
objections to the first U.S. and European draft resolution on sanctions, China voted with all other
Security Council members for Resolution 1737 on December 23, 2006, which invoked Article 41
of Chapter VII to require Iran to suspend nuclear enrichment and reprocessing activities, and
heavy water-related projects. On January 5, 2007, in Beijing, PRC President Hu Jintao stressed
the “unanimous” adoption of 1737 to visiting Iranian nuclear official Ali Larijani. After
negotiations on additional sanctions on Iran (during which China and Russia objected to a ban on 22
Iran’s arms imports and export credit guarantees for doing business in Iran), China voted with
all other members of the U.N. Security Council for Resolution 1747, adopted unanimously on
March 24, 2007. Citing Article 41 of Chapter VII, the resolution included a ban on Iran’s arms
However, the United States raised the problem with China of its violation of UNSC Resolutions
1737 and 1747. In particular, U.S. officials reportedly said in July 2007 that earlier in the year, a
PRC “entity” (probably one under U.S. sanctions) tried to ship a large amount of chemicals used
to make solid fuel for ballistic missiles. Cooperating with U.S. intelligence, Singapore intercepted 23
the container from China on its way to the Shahid Bagheri Industrial Group in Iran. This Iranian
organization was listed in the Annex of UNSC Resolution 1737, but sanctions for entities or
people in the Annex involve restricting travel and freezing financial assets. Still, Resolution 1737
decided that all States shall take the necessary measures to prevent transfers directly or indirectly
22 “Nations Closer to Deal on Iran Sanctions,” AP, March 13, 2007; and Colum Lynch, “6 Powers Agree on Sanctions
for Iran,” Washington Post, March 16, 2007.
23 Jim Wolf, “U.S. Faults China on Shipments to Iran,” Reuters, July 12, 2007; Neil King Jr., “China-Iran Trade Surge
Vexes U.S.,” Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2007.
from their territories that could contribute to Iran’s development of nuclear weapon delivery
systems. Resolution 1747 called for restraint in transfers related to arms and missiles to Iran.
After the IAEA reported on May 23, 2007, that Iran continued nuclear enrichment activities, the 24
Bush Administration called for a third UNSC resolution with tougher sanctions on Iran. On
September 28, China joined with the United States, France, Germany, Russia, and United
Kingdom in issuing a foreign ministers’ statement in support of negotiations, the IAEA, as well as
a third UNSC resolution with sanctions. However, on October 17, China refused to attend a
meeting in Berlin on Iran’s nuclear program, citing “technical” difficulties. China apparently tried
to make a linkage to an unrelated matter. U.S. officials said China showed displeasure over that
day’s award in the U.S. Capitol of the Congressional Gold Medal to Tibet’s Dalai Lama.
Even as the UNSC expected the IAEA’s report and PRC Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi visited
Tehran on November 13, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman criticized sanctions as being of
“no help.” In contrast, two days later, Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns expressed
concerns about China’s increasing civilian and military trade with Iran and called on China to 25
agree to have the next meeting on sanctions and “take a much more resolute role.” China again
did not attend a meeting scheduled for Brussels on November 19, citing “scheduling reasons.”
On December 3, 2007, the United States issued a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on
Iran’s nuclear capabilities, finding that, in the fall of 2003, Iran had halted its nuclear weapons
program but in January 2006, resumed its declared uranium enrichment activities. In response, the
PRC’s ambassador at the U.N. said that the situation for imposing more sanctions had changed.
Nonetheless, in January 2008, China’s shifted to support a third sanctions resolution at the UNSC,
upon talks with Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte who visited China for the bilateral
Senior Dialogue and argued for another UNSC resolution because of Iran’s violation of the
previously passed resolutions. At the same time, at his press conference in Beijing on January 17,
Negroponte volunteered criticism of Taiwan’s planned referendums on membership in the U.N.
Beijing did agree to send Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to a six-nation meeting on sanctions at
Berlin on January 22, 2008. Yang reportedly agreed to a draft UNSC resolution only with
compromise language that excluded new sanctions on freezing assets of Iranian banks and
military units, and on Iran’s arms imports. Also, in a meeting in Beijing on February 26 with
Secretary of State Rice, Foreign Minister Yang urged for a resumption of U.S. dialogue with Iran.
Based on the compromise in January, the U.N. Security Council passed (with Indonesia
abstaining) Resolution 1803 on March 3, 2008. This third UNSC sanctions resolution called for
travel restrictions and bans; bans on dual-use nuclear trade; “vigilance” in export credits and
financial transactions with Iranian banks; and cargo inspections. At the same time, China stressed
that the sanctions would not affect “normal” economic ties with Iran and called for negotiations.
While the United States and other countries sought a fourth set of UNSC sanctions on Iran, top
PRC leader Hu Jintao met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Beijing on
September 6, 2008, and expressed respect for Iran’s right to peaceful use of nuclear energy as
24 Karen DeYoung, “Iranian Defiance of U.N. Detailed,” Washington Post, May 24, 2007; State Department, Daily
Press Briefing, July 26, 2007.
25 Nicholas Burns quoted by Robin Wright, “U.S. to Seek New Sanctions Against Iran,” Washington Post, November
well as support for the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Another concern was raised when China
tried to link the six-nation diplomacy on Iran’s nuclear program to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
After the Bush Administration notified Congress on October 3 of pending arms sales to Taiwan, 26
the PRC blocked U.S. efforts to set up a conference call among the six countries to discuss Iran.
Diplomatic impasses have raised the burden on China’s preferred dialogue to produce results in
support of nonproliferation and stability in the Middle East. China likely fears greater instability
or conflict in the Mideast, the source of about 50% of China’s oil imports. China has tried to
maintain a balanced position in support of Iran and U.S./European Union concerns, but also has
evolved to support negotiations, the IAEA’s authority in Iran, as well as some UNSC sanctions on
Iran. Meanwhile, China has pressed the United States to talk directly with Iran. If the United
States and allies step up dialogue with Iran without resulting in resolution of the dispute, the
burden would be greater on China to place a higher priority on nonproliferation than business as
usual (including energy deals). In addition to the three tracks supported by China (involving
dialogue and incentives, the IAEA, and some UNSC sanctions), the United States and European
allies have options of sanctions separate from those imposed by the UNSC and the use of force.
(On U.S. policy towards Iran, see CRS Report RL32048, Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy
Responses, by Kenneth Katzman.)
During the Clinton Administration, PRC entities reportedly transferred equipment and technology
to Iran’s missile programs, including development of medium-range ballistic missiles. In
November 2000, the United States determined that missile technology transfers took place but
waived sanctions, citing a new PRC promise on missile nonproliferation. However, PRC entities
have continued missile-related proliferation activities in Iran. In contrast to the previous
administration, the Bush Administration stressed the use of sanctions against PRC entities,
including “serial proliferators.” Nonetheless, this record raised questions about the effectiveness
of this approach as well as the PRC’s commitment and capability to control its exports to Iran.
Related to ballistic missile programs in Iran, the CIA found that China delivered dozens or
perhaps hundreds of missile guidance systems and computerized machine tools to Iran sometime
between mid-1994 and mid-1995, reported the International Herald Tribune (June 23, 1995). The
November 21, 1996 Washington Times cited a CIA report as saying that China agreed in August
1996 to sell to Iran’s Defense Industries Organization gyroscopes, accelerometers, and test
equipment, which could be used to build and test components for missile guidance. On the same
day, the State Department would only say publicly that “we believe at this stage that, in fact, the
Chinese are operating within the assurances they have given us.”
26 Matthew Lee, “China Blocks New Iran Sanctions Talks,” Associated Press, October 16, 2008; Author’s consultation.
The Washington Times (September 10, 1997) cited Israeli and U.S. intelligence sources as saying
that China Great Wall Industry Corp. (which markets satellite launches) was providing telemetry
equipment used in flight-tests to Iran for its development of the Shahab-3 and Shahab-4 MRBMs
(with ranges, respectively, of about 800 mi. and 1,250 mi.). Over 100 PRC and North Korean
experts worked there, reported the Washington Times (November 23, 1997) and Washington Post
(December 31, 1997). Citing a May 27, 1998 intelligence report, the June 16, 1998 Washington
Times reported that, in May 1998, China discussed selling telemetry equipment (for testing
missiles) to Iran. On July 22, 1998, Iran first tested the mobile Shahab-3 missile, which the
Pentagon, on the next day, confirmed to be based on a North Korean Nodong MRBM. In Beijing
in November 1998, Acting Under Secretary of State John Holum protested continuing PRC
missile technology aid to Iran, including a reported shipment of telemetry equipment in
November 1998, according to the Washington Post (November 13, 1998) and Washington Times
(December 7, 1998). U.S. intelligence suspected continued PRC sales of missile technology to
Iran in 1999, including specialty steel, telemetry equipment, and training on inertial guidance,
reported the Washington Times (April 15, 1999).
On November 21, 2000, under the AECA and EAA, the Clinton Administration announced it
determined that PRC entities had transferred Category II items (missile components) to Iranian
entities and U.S. sanctions would be waived on China given its new missile nonproliferation
Still, the Washington Times (January 26, 2001) said that NORINCO (a PRC defense industrial
conglomerate) shipped specialty metals and chemicals used in missile production to Iran. On the
national emergency regarding weapons proliferation, President Bush continued to report to
Congress in June 2002 that PRC (and North Korean and Russian) entities “have continued to 27
supply Iran with a wide variety of missile-related goods, technology, and expertise.” The report
confirmed that the May 2002 sanctions under the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-
178) were imposed on three PRC entities for conventional transfers to Iran related to unspecified
missiles. It also noted that the Administration did not impose new missile proliferation sanctions
(under the AECA and EAA) between November 2001 and May 2002. (The Iran Nonproliferation
Act authorizes sanctions on a foreign person based on “credible information” of a transfer to Iran
(not necessarily a weapons program) of technology controlled by multilateral nonproliferation
regimes. The AECA and EAA require sanctions based on a Presidential determination that a
foreign entity “knowingly” transferred any MTCR missile equipment or technology to a program
for an MTCR Category I missile.)
On May 23, 2003, the Administration imposed sanctions on NORINCO and Iran’s Shahid
Hemmat Industrial Group, under Executive Order (E.O.) 12938 (as amended by E.O. 13094).
According to U.S. officials, the Administration banned imports from NORINCO for two years
(worth over $100 million annually), because it transferred missile technology to Iran, even after
the PRC issued missile technology export controls in August 2002, that would assist the
development of medium- or long-range ballistic missiles, reported Reuters (May 22) and Wall
Street Journal (May 23, 2003). (E.O. 12938 requires sanctions if the Secretary of State
27 President Clinton declared the national emergency with respect to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in
Executive Order 12938 on November 14, 1994. President George W. Bush, Report to Congress on the Emergency
Regarding Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, June 18, 2002.
determines that a foreign person has “materially contributed or attempted to contribute
materially” to WMD or missile proliferation.)
Again on June 26, 2003, the Administration imposed sanctions under the Iran Nonproliferation
Act on five PRC entities (including NORINCO) and one North Korean entity. The State
Department noted that it added in the act’s required report to Congress (a classified report was
submitted on June 25) transfers of items that have the potential to make a “material contribution”
to WMD, cruise missiles, or ballistic missiles, even if the items fall below the parameters of
multilateral export control lists.
On April 1, 2004, the Bush Administration imposed sanctions under the Iran Nonproliferation Act
based on “credible information” that five PRC entities (along with other foreign entities)
transferred unspecified prohibited items to Iran. Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf testified to
the House International Relations Committee on May 18, 2004, that “most” of the sanctions
related to non-nuclear transfers, but there were concerns in the nuclear area as well. The
Washington Times reported on August 23, 2004, that the U.S. government detected several weeks
before that a PRC company supplied missile technology to Iran within the past six months. On
September 20, 2004, under E.O. 12938 (amended by E.O. 13094), the State Department imposed
sanctions on Xinshidai (New Era Company), a defense-industrial conglomerate, for material
contributions to missile technology proliferation in a publicly unnamed country. The Bush
Administration again imposed sanctions on PRC entities under the Iran Nonproliferation Act, in
September, November, and December 2004.
Under Secretary of State John Bolton said in a speech in Tokyo in February 2005 that the PRC
government still had not taken action to stop NORINCO’s missile proliferation activities in Iran,
despite repeated sanctions on this “serial proliferator” costing NORINCO hundreds of millions of 28
dollars in banned exports to the United States. On December 23, 2005, the Administration again
imposed sanctions for missile and chemical weapon (CW)-related proliferation in Iran by
NORINCO and five other PRC entities, although the State Department reportedly had considered 29
the sanctions since April 2005. New sanctions were imposed on previously sanctioned PRC
entities on June 13, 2006 and later. (See Table 1 for the full list of sanctions.)
In April 2007, the United States imposed sanctions on PRC entities for transfers contributing to
weapons proliferation in Iran. The DNI’s “Section 721 report” told Congress in November 2008
that PRC “entities” continued through 2007 to supply ballistic missile-related technology to Iran.
The report also said that PRC entities, over the years, have provided missile-related assistance to
Iran that helped it to advance toward self-sufficient production of ballistic missiles.
Concerning chemical weapons, the Washington Post of March 8, 1996, reported that U.S.
intelligence, for over one year, was monitoring transfers of precursor chemicals and chemical-
related equipment from China to Iranian organizations affiliated with the military or the
Revolutionary Guards. According to the report, the equipment included glass-lined vessels for
28 John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, “Coordinated Allied Approaches
to China,” Tokyo, Japan, February 7, 2005.
29 Bill Gertz, “U.S. Puts Sanctions on Chinese Firms for Aiding Tehran,” Washington Times, December 27, 2005.
mixing the caustic precursors and special air filtration equipment to prevent poison gas leaks. Iran
was also reportedly buying PRC technology for indigenous and independent production.
Confirming long-suspected PRC transfers, on May 21, 1997, the Clinton Administration imposed
sanctions on two PRC companies, five PRC citizens, and a Hong Kong company for transfers to
Iran contributing to chemical weapon proliferation. U.S. sanctions, banning U.S. government
procurement and imports, were imposed under the AECA and EAA, as amended by the Chemical
and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (P.L. 102-182). However,
the Administration did not impose sanctions under the Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act of
1992 (affecting “persons” or “countries”), because the transfers apparently occurred before
February 10, 1996, the date when provisions on WMD proliferation took effect, as amended by
the FY1996 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 104-106). Also, the State Department said
that it had no evidence that the PRC or Hong Kong governments were involved.
An intelligence report was said to allege that China completed in June 1997 a plant in Iran for
making glass-lined equipment used in producing chemical weapons, reported the Washington
Times (October 30, 1997). The Nanjing Chemical and Industrial Group built the factory, and
North Chemical Industries Corporation (NOCINCO) brokered the deal. (NOCINCO is affiliated
with NORINCO, a defense-industrial firm.) However, the PRC government reportedly held up
supplies of raw materials. The London Daily Telegraph (May 24, 1998) reported that SinoChem
Corp.’s branch in Tianjin, China, supplied to Iran 500 tons of phosphorus pentasulphide
(controlled by the AG for making nerve agents).
On June 14, 2001, the Bush Administration imposed sanctions under the Iran Nonproliferation
Act of 2000 on Jiangsu Yongli Chemicals and Technology Import and Export Corporation (one of
the two PRC companies sanctioned in 1997) for proliferation of chemical weapons-related
materials or equipment to Iran. According to the Washington Times (June 28, 2001), the PRC
company helped Iran to build a factory to manufacture dual-use equipment applicable to chemical
weapons. Again, on January 16, 2002, the Administration imposed similar sanctions (for transfers
of chemical and/or biological items controlled by the Australia Group) on Liyang Chemical
Equipment Company, China Machinery and Electric Equipment Import and Export Company,
and a PRC citizen (Chen Qingchang, or Q.C. Chen). Chen was also sanctioned in 1997. Sanctions
were imposed for two years, but there was no economic effect because of the absence of U.S.
government contracts, assistance, arms sales, or dual-use exports with/to such “persons.”
With those actions, the State Department did not impose sanctions under the AECA, EAA, or the
Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act, apparently because unlike those laws, the Iran
Nonproliferation Act requires semi-annual reports to Congress and authorizes sanctions based on
“credible information” that a person, since 1999, transferred to Iran items controlled by
multilateral export control lists (NSG, MTCR, AG, CWC, or Wassenaar Arrangement). The
Administration again imposed sanctions under the Iran Nonproliferation Act on May 9, 2002, and
a Presidential report to Congress in June 2002 confirmed that five of the eight PRC entities were 30
sanctioned for transferring AG-controlled items to Iran. The Washington Times (May 20, 2002)
said that the transfers involved anti-corrosive glass-lined equipment to make chemical weapons
and that NORINCO was sanctioned but not listed among the eight publicly named PRC entities.
30 President George W. Bush, Report to Congress on the Emergency Regarding Proliferation of Weapons of Mass
Destruction, June 18, 2002.
On July 9, 2002, the Bush Administration imposed sanctions under the Iran-Iraq Arms
Nonproliferation Act of 1992 (in the first use of this law), as well as the AECA and EAA (as
amended by the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of
1991), on eight PRC entities (including those previously sanctioned) for “knowingly and
materially” contributing to Iran’s chemical weapons program, according to the State Department.
The Administration did not impose sanctions under the Iran-Iraq Act on the PRC government.
The Washington Times (July 19, 2002) reported that the transfers took place between September
On November 24, 2004, the Bush Administration again imposed sanctions under the Iran
Nonproliferation Act that affected four PRC entities, including Q.C. Chen, likely related to
chemical weapons. On December 23, 2005, the Administration again imposed sanctions for
missile and chemical weapon (CW)-related proliferation in Iran by NORINCO and five other
PRC entities, although the State Department reportedly had considered the sanctions since April 31
2005. (See Table 1 for a full list of sanctioned entities.) The DNI’s unclassified “Section 721
report” of May 2007 told Congress that PRC “firms” continued in 2005 to provide dual-use
chemical production equipment and technology to Iran.
Since 1998, there have been public reports about and U.S. government confirmation of PRC
assistance to North Korea’s missile program. There are questions about whether the PRC has
interests in North Korea’s missile advances. Lieutenant General Xiong Guangkai, a Deputy Chief
of General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), visited North Korea in early August
1998. However, increased worries about North Korea’s missile program spurred U.S. and
Japanese support for missile defenses opposed by China. Some say PRC entities acted on their
The National Security Agency (NSA) reportedly suspected in late 1998 that the China Academy
of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) was working with North Korea on its space program
(closely related to missiles) to develop satellites, but that cooperation was not confirmed to be
linked to the Taepo Dong-1 MRBM program, said the Washington Times (February 23, 1999). An
NSA report dated March 8, 1999, suggested that China sold specialty steel for use in North
Korea’s missile program, reported the Washington Times (April 15, 1999). In June 1999, U.S.
intelligence reportedly found that PRC entities transferred accelerometers, gyroscopes, and
precision grinding machinery to North Korea, according to the Washington Times (July 20, 1999).
An October 20, 1999 classified report was said to say that China’s Changda Corp. sought to buy
Russian gyroscopes that were more of the same that China supplied to the North Korean missile
program earlier that year, reported the Washington Times (November 19, 1999). In December
1999, the NSA discovered an alleged PRC deal to supply unspecified PRC-made missile-related
items to North Korea through a Hong Kong company, said the Washington Times (January 1,
31 Bill Gertz, “U.S. Puts Sanctions on Chinese Firms for Aiding Tehran,” Washington Times, December 27, 2005.
The DCI first publicly confirmed PRC supplies to North Korea in July 1999. The DCI’s April
2003 “Section 721 report” said that, in the first half of 2002, North Korea continued to procure
missile-related raw materials and components from foreign sources, but it dropped a previous
reference about those foreign supplies as especially going through North Korean firms in China.
There are direct implications for U.S. national security, because of North Korea’s nuclear
weapons and nuclear programs as well as delivery systems. PRC technology transfers have
further implications for secondary, or retransferred, proliferation, since North Korea reportedly
has supplied technology to Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. The DNI’s
unclassified “Section 721 report” of May 2007 told Congress that PRC “entities” continued in
A serious case of such secondary proliferation involves North Korea’s secret program to enrich
uranium to develop nuclear weapons, a program that U.S. officials said was surprisingly
acknowledged by North Korea to visiting Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly during talks in
Pyongyang on October 4, 2002. This acknowledgment was not publicly disclosed by the Bush
Administration until October 16, 2002, at a time when President Bush sought congressional
authorization for the war against Iraq. By early 2007, however, U.S. officials restated the
assessment of the highly enriched uranium (HEU) program.
The DCI’s April 2003 “Section 721 report” stated that the United States was suspicious of an
uranium enrichment program in North Korea for “several years” but did not obtain “clear
evidence indicating that North Korea had begun constructing a centrifuge facility until recently.”
While the DCI previously reported that North Korea has another program using plutonium that
produced one or two nuclear weapons, the Washington Post reported on April 28, 2004, that U.S.
intelligence newly estimated that North Korea has at least eight nuclear weapons.
DCI George Tenet testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 24, 2004, that U.S.
intelligence judged in the mid-1990s that North Korea had produced “one, possibly two, nuclear
weapons” and the 8,000 fuel rods that North Korea claims to have reprocessed into plutonium
metal would provide enough plutonium for “several more.” On February 16, 2005, the Director of
the Defense Intelligence Agency, Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, testified that North Korea’s Taepo
Dong 2 intercontinental ballistic missile, which might be ready for testing, “could deliver a
nuclear warhead to parts of the United States in a two-stage variant and target all of North
America with a three-stage variant.” However, a test of that missile failed in July 2006.
This case raises a question about whether China’s nuclear technology has indirectly contributed to
North Korea’s nuclear weapons program through Pakistan, since China was the “principal
supplier” to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. There are also questions about China’s
knowledge about the Pakistani-North Korean trade and whether Beijing has shared useful
intelligence with the United States.
The New York Times and Washington Post reported on October 18, 2002, that U.S. officials
believed Pakistan provided equipment, including gas centrifuges, for the North Korean uranium
enrichment program, in return for North Korea’s supply of Nodong MRBMs to Pakistan by 1998.
Another Washington Post report added on November 13, 2002, that the Bush Administration had
knowledge that Pakistan continued to provide nuclear technology to North Korea through the
summer of 2002. Henry Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center wrote in
National Review Online (November 19, 2002) that “one might call on Pakistan, Russia, and
China to detail what nuclear technology and hardware they allowed North Korea to import.” John
Tkacik of the Heritage Foundation wrote in the Asian Wall Street Journal (December 2, 2002)
that most in the U.S. intelligence community doubted China was “completely in the dark,” as
PRC leader Jiang Zemin claimed at his summit with President Bush at Crawford, TX, on October
The New York Times reported on January 4, 2004, about a history of nuclear technology
proliferating from Pakistan’s Khan Research Laboratories headed by Abdul Qadeer Khan and
disclosed that he had transferred designs for uranium-enrichment centrifuges to China first. DCI
George Tenet publicly testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 24, 2004, that
North Korea has pursued a “production-scale uranium enrichment program based on technology
provided by A.Q. Khan.” Particularly troubling has been the reported intelligence finding in early
2004 that Khan sold Libya a nuclear bomb design that he received from China in the early 1980s
(in return for giving China centrifuge technology), a design that China had already tested in 1966 32
and had developed as a compact nuclear bomb for delivery on a missile. That finding raised an
additional question of whether Khan also sold that bomb design to others, including Iran and
Moreover, there might be PRC firms directly or indirectly involved in North Korea’s nuclear
weapons programs or weapons proliferation to other countries. In June 1999, authorities in India
inspected the North Korean freighter Kuwolsan and found an assembly line for Scud ballistic
missiles intended for Libya, including many parts and machines from China or Japan, according
to the Washington Post (August 14, 2003). The Washington Times reported on December 9 and
17, 2002, that a PRC company in the northeastern coastal city of Dalian sold to North Korea 20
tons of tributyl phosphate (TBP), a dual-use chemical that U.S. intelligence reportedly believed
would be used in the North Korean nuclear weapons program.
Questions have arisen about China’s role in allowing Pakistani, North Korean, and Iranian ships
and planes to use PRC ports and airspace (and perhaps military airfields). China’s possible
cooperation in interdiction, restrictions in the use of its ports and airfields, law-enforcement, and
intelligence-sharing has become a salient question in light of the Bush Administration’s
Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) announced in May 2003 (which China did not join). As part
of the military trade between Pakistan and North Korea, in July 2002, Pakistan flew a C-130
transport aircraft to pick up missile parts in North Korea, reported the New York Times (November
24, 2002). In December 2002, the Spanish and U.S. navies interdicted a North Korean ship (So
San) with Scud missiles bound for Yemen, and the Spanish Defense Minister reported that the
ship’s last port of call was in China. In addition, an Iranian ship stopped at the Tianjin port in
China and picked up missile components before sailing on to North Korea to take delivery of
missiles and rocket fuel in February and November 2002, reported the South Korean newspaper,
Joong Ang Ilbo (December 19, 2002). From April to July 2003, China reportedly gave overflight
rights to Iranian Il-76 cargo planes that flew to North Korea at least six times to pick up wooden
crates suspected of containing cruise missiles, and the Bush Administration lodged a diplomatic
protest with Beijing, reported Time (Asian edition) on July 14, 2003. At a hearing held by the
32 Joby Warrick and Peter Slevin, “Libyan Arms Designs Traced Back to China,” Washington Post, February 15, 2004;
William Broad and David Sanger, “As Nuclear Secrets Emerge in Khan Inquiry, More Are Suspected,” New York
Times, December 26, 2004.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 11, 2003, on U.S.-China relations, Assistant
Secretary of State James Kelly confirmed to Senator Russell Feingold that the State Department
raised with China the issue of North Korean planes flying through PRC airspace or making
refueling stops in China. In June 2005, China (and a Central Asian country) agreed to deny over-
flight rights to an Iranian cargo plane that had landed in North Korea to allegedly pick up missile
components, according to the New York Times (October 24, 2005).
Questions also have arisen about the PRC’s military relationship with the DPRK. Nonetheless,
this relationship appears to have weakened during the crisis. In mid-August 2003, Wen Wei Po (a
PRC-owned newspaper in Hong Kong) published an article questioning whether the PRC-North
Korean alliance under the 1961 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance
continued to serve China’s interest. China took steps that appeared to pressure North Korea,
including using the PLA. In early September 2003, China replaced paramilitary People’s Armed
Police (PAP) troops with PLA soldiers along its border with North Korea, as confirmed by the
PRC Foreign Ministry and the official People’s Daily (September 16, 2003), apparently to warn
North Korea against provocations to raise tensions. Numerous reports in 2006 confirmed the
PLA’s construction of fencing along the border, although that construction reportedly had started
in 2003. The Defense Department’s 2004 report to Congress on PRC military power skeptically
critiqued that China “has avoided taking real steps to pressure North Korea.” Nonetheless, the
report confirmed that “as a potential hedge against uncertainty, the PLA assumed responsibility
for border security along the northeast frontier in fall 2003, increasing security along the porous
border with North Korea and strengthening China’s ability to stem refugee flows or respond to a 33
breakdown of the North Korean regime.”
A key question has been about the PLA’s knowledge of the DPRK’s missile program. As
discussed elsewhere in this report, the PRC and DPRK militaries had high-level contact just
before both the missile tests of August 1998 and July 2006. The PLA has denied information
about and leverage over those tests.
China has pursued a resumption of high-level military contacts with the United States (Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited Beijing in October 2005), even as China’s traditional
military friendship with North Korea has weakened. When PRC ruler Hu Jintao visited
Pyongyang in October 2005 and Kim Jong-il visited China in January 2006, Hu’s third position
as Chairman of the Central Military Commission was downplayed by PRC press (in addition to
other positions as Communist Party General-Secretary and PRC President). On March 9, 2006,
General B.B. Bell, Commander of U.S. Forces Korea, testified to the House Armed Services
Committee that PRC-North Korean military engagement is “quite low” and that despite the
friendship treaty, “the amount of military support that the PRC provides to the North is minimal.”
The PLA hosted the May 2006 visit of Admiral William Fallon, Commander of the Pacific
Command, to the Shenyang Military Region (close to the border with North Korea). When the
top PLA officer, General Guo Boxiong, visited Washington in July 2006, he criticized North
Korea’s July 4 missile tests, even citing the UNSC’s Resolution that condemned the tests.
Further indicating strains, on the day after the DPRK’s nuclear test on October 9, 2006, the PRC
Foreign Ministry publicly said that the test had a “negative impact” on PRC-DPRK ties and
33 Defense Department, “Report on PRC Military Power,” May 29, 2004.
denied that China is North Korea’s “ally.” A PRC-owned newspaper in Hong Kong reported that 34
PLA and PAP troops were on high alert at the PRC-DPRK border. On October 16, the PLA 35
commemorated the death of a soldier who was killed by North Korean soldiers a year earlier.
After the Bush Administration’s October 2002 disclosure about North Korea’s ongoing nuclear
weapons programs, it sought a multilateral effort (not just bilateral negotiations) to achieve the
complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) (not just a freeze) of North Korea’s
nuclear weapons programs (uranium and plutonium programs) as well as nuclear weapons. The
Administration’s strategy relied on securing China’s cooperation and central role. At the October
25, 2002, summit in Crawford, TX, top PRC ruler Jiang Zemin agreed with President Bush on the
goal of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula achieved through a peaceful resolution, although Jiang
claimed to be “completely in the dark” about North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
However, some have questioned whether China has been helpful in fully using its leverage with
North Korea, whether it seeks North Korea’s denuclearization with as much urgency as the
United States, and whether China’s role warrants a closer U.S.-PRC relationship that might risk
other U.S. interests. China has its own concerns that include: (1) sustainment of a “friendly” U.S.
approach toward China; (2) U.S. security policies (suspected of provoking instability and collapse
of the North Korean regime, with loss of a perceived buffer between PLA and U.S. forces); (3)
diminished global standing in any appearances of isolated PRC influence; (4) questions about
whether Beijing’s support for Washington would result—directly or indirectly—in limits to U.S.
support for Taiwan, including arms sales; (5) U.S. alliances with Japan and South Korea; (6) a
stronger Japan (with missile defense and even possibly nuclear weapons); and (7) stability and
PRC influence in North Korea.
China initially did not respond to multilateral cooperation with the urgency and to the extent
sought by the United States. Then, North Korea further escalated the situation by expelling IAEA
inspectors and reactivating its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon in December 2002, and by
withdrawing from the NPT in January 2003. On February 7, 2003, Bush said he had to “remind”
Jiang of “joint responsibilities” in achieving common objectives concerning North Korea. Two
days later, Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an interview on Fox News Sunday that China
has “considerable influence with North Korea.” Powell reported that North Korea depends on
China for 80 percent of its energy and economic activity, and urged China to play an active role in
the dispute. While in Beijing on February 24, 2003, Secretary Powell noted that “the United
States and China share the goal of a diplomatic and peaceful resolution to this problem. It cannot 36
simply be treated, however, as a bilateral matter between the United States and North Korea.”
Later, in November, Powell said that after he had pressed the need for China to “rise to its
responsibilities in dealing with this regional problem,” PRC Vice Premier Qian Qichen made an
34 Wen Wei Po, October 13, 2006.
35 South China Morning Post, October 17, 2006.
36 Department of State, “Secretary Colin L. Powell’s press conference,” Beijing, China, February 24, 2003.
“important contribution” in March 2003 by delivering the message in North Korea that “there 37
would be no alternative to multilateral talks” that involved China and other countries.
Since 2003, as North Korea further exacerbated the situation, China’s position has evolved to
sponsor multilateral talks to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, to be openly critical of North
Korea, and to support tough UNSC resolutions that condemned the July 2006 missile firings and
that imposed sanctions for the October 2006 nuclear test by the DPRK. However, the PRC also
has urged the United States to provide aid to North Korea, to lift sanctions, to hold bilateral U.S.-
DPRK talks by 2007 (even outside of Beijing), and to show flexibility for a final settlement.
While skeptics have pointed to progress as limited to the process of the Beijing-sponsored talks,
there appeared some initial progress in results by the summer of 2007, with the shutdown of
North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor. Nonetheless, in spite of the PRC’s role since 2003 in
sponsoring negotiations with North Korea, its “isolated” position in multilateral negotiations, and
the seeming fragility of the health of the North Korean ruler and economy, North Korean regime
has been able to retain time to stall denuclearization, diplomatic leverage, economic gains,
repression of its people, and ability to proliferate weapons technology.
After the PRC’s pressure on North Korea in March 2003, China hosted the Trilateral Talks among
China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and the United States on April 23-
25, 2003. Secretary Powell noted positively that “China has stepped up.” However, the DCI’s
“Section 721 report” (of November 2004) confirmed that, at the meeting, North Korea threatened
to “transfer” or “demonstrate” its nuclear weapons. On June 9, 2003, in Tokyo, Deputy Secretary
of State Richard Armitage “saluted” China’s cooperation on the problem of North Korea and
declared “a new phase of our relationship with China.” In mid-July 2003, PRC leader Hu Jintao
dispatched Deputy Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo to Pyongyang with a letter for Kim Jong-il that
proposed a multilateral meeting with U.S.-North Korean talks on the sidelines, reported the New
York Times (July 16, 2003).
Responding to U.S. insistence on expanded multilateral talks, China hosted the first round of the
Six-Party Talks (also including South Korea, Japan, and Russia) on August 27-29, 2003.
However, North Korea again threatened to transfer or test a nuclear weapon, as confirmed by the
DCI’s “Section 721 report” of November 2004.
China seized a shipment of tributyl phosphate (TBP), a material used for nuclear weapons,
suspected by the CIA on a train bound for North Korea in the summer of 2003, reported Asahi
Shimbun (February 22, 2004). The DCI’s “Section 721 report” confirmed that, in September
2003, at the border with North Korea, China stopped a shipment of chemicals that could have
been used in the DPRK’s nuclear program.
37 Department of State, “Secretary of State Colin L. Powell’s Remarks at Conference on China-U.S. Relations,”
College Station, Texas, November 5, 2003.
The Administration sought another round of multilateral talks before the end of 2003, with a 38
tentative date set by November for around December 17, but the talks were not held then. When
PRC Premier Wen Jiabao visited President Bush at the White House on December 9, 2003, the
Taiwan question eclipsed the issue of North Korea. The Washington Post disclosed on January 7,
2004, that at a meeting in Seoul the week before, a PRC diplomat, Fu Ying, questioned the
credibility of U.S. intelligence that Pyongyang has a highly enriched uranium program.
China then hosted the second round of Six-Party Talks on February 25-28, 2004, for which
Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly expressed appreciation. However, North Korea
reportedly denied the suspected uranium enrichment program. The State Department’s statement
at the end of the talks did not report any progress in either freezing or dismantling North Korea’s
nuclear weapons programs, but rather pointed to “progress on a regularized process” for
peacefully resolving this issue.
Before China hosted another round of Six-Party Talks, PRC Deputy Foreign Minister Zhou
Wenzhong publicly questioned the credibility of U.S. intelligence about North Korea’s uranium
enrichment program and expressed support for North Korea’s arguments (in an interview with the
New York Times, June 9, 2004). China hosted the third round of Six-Party Talks on June 23-26,
2004. The DPRK again threatened to test a nuclear weapon. Afterward, National Security Adviser
Condoleezza Rice traveled to Beijing and told Central Military Commission (CMC) Chairman
Jiang Zemin and President Hu Jintao that “A.Q. Khan was not engaged in academic research” and
that “North Korea has a highly enriched uranium program,” reported the Washington Times on
July 14, 2004. Also visiting Beijing in July 2004, North Korea’s National Defense Commission
Member and Defense Minister Kim Il-chol met with CMC Vice Chairman and Defense Minister
Cao Gangchuan, and they could have discussed the PLA’s provision of aid.
Despite the lack of any breakthrough in the Trilateral Talks and three rounds of Six-Party Talks
held since April 2003, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly contended at a hearing of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July 2004 that multilateral diplomacy has been useful and
that the talks held in Beijing have yielded progress in dealing with the threat of North Korean 39
nuclear weapons. In answer to Senator Chuck Hagel, Kelly acknowledged that “there could be
and probably should be a role for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC),” but reported that
China likely will not be interested in dealing with the threat at the UNSC. In answer to Senator
Lincoln Chaffee, Kelly also denied that China has linked its cooperation on North Korea to U.S.
concessions on Taiwan (including arms sales), by saying that China has not posed Taiwan “as a
tactical issue” in discussions about North Korea. Kelly also acknowledged to Senator Bill Nelson
that it remained unclear as to whether China’s preference for positive incentives (over pressure)
The six countries had agreed to convene a fourth round of talks by the end of September 2004,
but that time period passed without another such meeting. As indicated in his press conference in
38 Kyodo News, November 24, 2003.
39 Senate Foreign Relations Committee, hearing, A Report on Latest Round of Six-Way Talks Regarding Nuclear
Weapons in North Korea, July 15, 2004.
Beijing on October 25, 2004, Secretary of State Powell continued to count on China’s
“considerable influence with North Korea.”
In early February 2005, President Bush sent Michael Green, the National Security Council’s
Senior Director for Asian Affairs to Beijing, Tokyo, and Seoul to intensify diplomatic pressure on
Pyongyang. In Beijing, Green met with President Hu Jintao and presented urgent U.S.
intelligence findings that North Korea had processed several tons of uranium hexafluoride (which 40
could be enriched to make nuclear bombs) and sold some to Libya perhaps in early 2003. Other
reports, however, pointed to intelligence findings that the material originated in North Korea but 41
that Pakistan bought the uranium hexafluoride and supplied it to Libya.
On February 10, 2005, North Korea again escalated tensions by announcing that it would
indefinitely suspend its participation in the Six-Party Talks and that it had manufactured nuclear
weapons. North Korea’s announcement further called into question China’s preference for
positive inducements and raised the issue of using sanctions to pressure Pyongyang, including
consideration of action by the UNSC. A week after North Korea’s announcement, South Korea’s
ambassador to Beijing urged China to use its leverage, pointing out that in addition to economic
assistance (food, fuel, and investments), North Korea imports 70-80 percent of its foreign goods
from China and that China permits several railways and 15 roads to operate at the North Korean 42
border. Instead, China’s Foreign Ministry contended at a news conference on February 17 that
sanctions and pressure would only complicate the situation (a position that Foreign Minister Li
Zhaoxing argued to Secretary of State Rice on February 12). China also pointed to North Korea
and the United States as the two key parties to hold bilateral talks.
Wang Jiarui, Director of the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China,
visited Pyongyang on February 19-22, 2005, and personally passed a plea from Hu Jintao to Kim
Jong-il about resuming the Six-Party Talks. At the same time, to China’s great displeasure, the
U.S. Secretaries of Defense and State issued a Joint Statement (“2+2 Statement”) along with the
visiting Japanese Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs that included “the peaceful resolution 43
of issues concerning the Taiwan Strait through dialogue” as a common strategic objective. At a
press conference on March 6, 2005, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing characterized China’s role as
just “facilitating” the Six-Party Talks.
The Administration then stepped up pressure on the PRC to use its leverage to bring North Korea
back to the talks. On March 21, 2005, Secretary of State Rice met with top PRC officials
including President Hu in Beijing, after visiting other Asian capitals. She urged China in
particular to help restart the Six-Party Talks, publicly saying that “China has the closest
relationship with North Korea,” that “it is not a U.S.-North Korean issue,” and that “there are 44
other options in the international system.” In Beijing on April 26, 2005, Assistant Secretary of
40 David Sanger and William Broad, “Tests Said to Tie Deal on Uranium to North Korea” and “U.S. Asking China to
Press North Korea to End its Nuclear Program,” New York Times, February 2 and 9, 2005.
41 Glenn Kessler and Dafna Linzer, “Nuclear Evidence Could Point to Pakistan,” Washington Post, February 3, 2005;
Dafna Linzer, “U.S. Misled Allies About Nuclear Export,” Washington Post, March 20, 2005.
42 Chosun Ilbo, Seoul, February 18, 2005, via FBIS.
43 Department of State, “Joint Statement of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee,” February 19, 2005.
44 Secretary Condoleezza Rice, “Remarks to the Press in China,” Beijing, March 21, 2005.
State Chris Hill reportedly raised the idea of an interruption of oil flows from China to North 45
Korea, but China refused. At a news conference on April 28, President Bush reminded China
about his agreement with Jiang Zemin and mentioned Secretary Rice’s option of going to the
U.N. Security Council (where China has veto power). A PRC Foreign Ministry official, Yang
Xiyu, publicly blamed Washington for a “lack of cooperation” and Bush for calling Kim Jong-il a 46
“tyrant” at the news conference. Chris Hill, at a congressional hearing on May 26, said that
China has “enough influence” to convince North Korea to return to the talks but has not done it.
He also made China accountable for any failure of the Six-Party Talks if it fails to get its “very 47
close friend” back to the talks.
Meanwhile, Secretary Rice also offered a strengthened U.S.-PRC relationship and agreed that
Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick would hold the first “Senior Dialogue” with his PRC
counterpart, a meeting which was scheduled for early August 2005. PRC ruler Hu Jintao had
requested what China calls “strategic talks” when he met with President Bush in November 48
Rice visited China, but this time before visiting U.S. allies (Thailand, Japan, and South Korea).
After a period of 13 months without talks, China announced the start of the fourth round of the
Six-Party Talks in Beijing on July 26, 2005, and described China’s role as both a “host” to
“facilitate” the talks and a “participant.” The inconclusive first phase of this round ended on
August 7, 2005, when the countries agreed to recess and resume talks on August 29. Pakistani
President Pervez Musharraf provided support for U.S. reports of North Korea’s uranium
enrichment program, when he said that A.Q. Khan supplied North Korea with centrifuges and 50
their designs. North Korea did not return to the talks as agreed but returned later on September
13. Meanwhile, President Bush agreed to a meeting at the White House with PRC ruler Hu Jintao
in early September but had to postpone it because of Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Bush
then met with Hu in New York on September 13.
China proposed a joint statement that recognized North Korea’s insistence on a light water reactor
and had no explicit mention of a uranium program. On September 17, PRC Vice Foreign Minister
Dai Bingguo presented China’s draft as the “most realistic” and put pressure on the United States 51
to agree to it. Along with other countries, the United States agreed to sign the joint statement of
principles (not an agreement) on September 19, 2005, in which North Korea committed to
abandon “all nuclear weapons” and “existing nuclear programs” and to return to the NPT and
IAEA safeguards; and the other countries agreed “to discuss, at an appropriate time, the subject of
45 Glenn Kessler, “China Rejected U.S. Suggestion to Cut Off Oil to Pressure North Korea, Washington Post, May 7,
46 Joseph Kahn, “China Says U.S. Impeded North Korea Arms Talks,” New York Times, May 13, 2005.
47 House International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, hearing on Northeast Asia, May 26, 2005.
48 Department of State, Daily Press Briefing, April 8, 2005; Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, “Remarks at
U.S. Embassy Beijing,” August 2, 2005; and Glenn Kessler, “Zoellick Details Discussions With China on Future of the
Korean Peninsula,” Washington Post, September 7, 2005.
49 Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Press Availability in Beijing, July 10, 2005.
50BBC, August 24, 2005; and New York Times, September 13, 2005.
51 Xinhua [New China News Agency], September 17, 2005; and Joseph Khan and David Sanger, “U.S.-Korean Deal On
Arms Leaves Key Points Open,” New York Times, September 20, 2005.
the provision of a light water reactor.” But the United States had to clarify separately that
dismantlement of nuclear weapons must be verifiable; that nuclear programs included plutonium
and uranium programs; and that an “appropriate time” for “discussion” of a light water reactor is 52
when North Korea has verifiably eliminated all nuclear weapons and all nuclear programs.
At a hearing of the House International Relations Committee on October 6, 2005, Representative
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen asked about PRC pressure to accept the deal. Assistant Secretary of State
Chris Hill did not deny that Beijing exerted pressure and noted that there were earlier PRC drafts
that were “absolutely unacceptable,” while the mention of a light water reactor was “not
welcomed.” He testified, nonetheless, that the United States benefitted from China’s strong desire
to reach a deal and “we can work well with the Chinese.” He also described China’s role as that
of a “secretariat” (producing drafts), seemingly a neutral role.
After the joint statement of September 2005 was signed, PRC Vice Premier Wu Yi traveled to
North Korea on October 8-11, 2005, promising new economic aid. Top PRC leader Hu Jintao
then followed with a visit on October 28-30 and attended a ceremony to sign economic
agreements. On November 1, China announced that the next round would start on November 9. th
While there was progress in the process, when the meeting for the 5 round of the Six-Party Talks
ended on November 11, no progress in results was announced for the implementation of the joint
statement to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Moreover, there continued to be
differences between the U.S. and PRC approaches in continuing the Six-Party Talks. While
President Bush called for “firm resolve” in a speech given in Kyoto, Japan, on November 16,
PRC Communist Party General-Secretary Hu Jintao hosted North Korean ruler Kim Jong-il in
China on January 10-18, 2006, and Hu expressed support for continuing the Six-Party Talks. The
PRC proposed a meeting on January 18 in Beijing between Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill
and North Korean negotiator Kim Kye-gwan. China’s media said that PRC diplomat Wu Dawei
“also joined” the implied U.S.-DPRK bilateral meeting (vs. the U.S. view of a three-nation
On February 3, 2006, Senators Harry Reid (Democratic Leader), Carl Levin (Ranking Democrat
of the Armed Services Committee), Joseph Biden (Ranking Democrat of the Foreign Relations
Committee), and John Rockefeller (Vice Chairman of the Intelligence Committee) wrote a letter
to President Bush, saying that U.S. policy “still has not resulted in an elimination, freeze, or even
a slowing of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile activities.” At a hearing of the House
International Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on March 8, 2006, Chairman James
Leach critiqued President Bush’s “reactive” approach to the Six-Party Talks that “appear
moribund,” calling for U.S. leadership, “initiative” for more dialogue, “greater flexibility” for
diplomacy, sending Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill (the witness) to Pyongyang,
negotiation of a permanent peace on the peninsula at a separate forum, direct contacts with North
Koreans, and liaison offices to solve a “problem of communication.” Leach argued against
continuing to “transfer the initiative to others, indebting us to the diplomacy of countries that may
have different interests or simply ensconcing the status quo.”
52 Department of State, “Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks,” Beijing, and “North Korea—U.S.
Statement,” New York City, September 19, 2005.
Indeed, despite its considerable influence, China’s balanced role placed its stance as more neutral
than supportive of the United States and Japan. However, as Beijing pursued the “process” of the
talks, results remained elusive. The burden increased on China’s preferred diplomacy to achieve
the DPRK’s nuclear disarmament. The impasse also threatened to strain U.S.-PRC ties.
The impasse continued into the summer of 2006, when China failed to prevent North Korea from
test-firing seven ballistic missiles, including the first test of a Taepo Dong-2 ICBM under 53
development with a range (perhaps 3,700 miles) that could reach Alaska. After the DPRK began
preparations in May, Congress expressed concerns, including in a letter from Senators Carl Levin
and Hillary Rodham Clinton to President Bush on June 15. At a hearing of the House Armed
Services Committee on June 22, some Members asked about China’s role. Brigadier General John
Allen, Principal Director for Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Office of the Secretary of Defense,
testified that the PRC tried to dissuade North Korea from steps that would be destabilizing and
run counter to the Six-Party Talks. However, the PRC’s use of leverage, including the PLA’s
opposition or acquiescence to the DPRK’s missile program, was unclear. Indeed, there was high-
level contact between the militaries of the PRC and DPRK shortly before the July 2006 missile
tests, similar to that before the August 1998 missile firing. On June 21, 2006, the PLA Chief of
General Staff, General Liang Guanglie, told a DPRK military visitor that the PLA will “expand
cooperation” with the Korean People’s Army.
On July 4, 2006 (Washington time), North Korea fired a Taepo Dong-2 ICBM that failed in less
than 40 seconds after launch and several short-range Scuds and medium-range Nodongs, bringing
Washington’s condemnation for this “provocative act.” Threatened by the missiles, Japan called
for Security Council action. The PRC’s less forceful reaction was to express “grave concern”
about the “situation” and to call for “restraint” from all countries. On July 5, Senator John
McCain stated that China and Russia have the most leverage over North Korea and warned that
their posture will have a heavy impact on our relations.
In a phone call with President Bush on July 6, PRC ruler Hu Jintao expressed “deep concerns” 54
about the “situation” but also warned against actions that might “aggravate the situation.” On
July 7, with U.S. support, Japan sponsored a UNSC resolution that invoked Chapter VII of the
U.N. Charter (language for sanctions and/or force), but China countered with a non-binding
statement by the president of the Security Council with no mention of Chapter VII. China’s draft
statement of July 10 called for resuming the Six-Party Talks, preventing technology and financial
transfers to North Korea’s missile and WMD programs, and other voluntary measures. Faced with
this resistance from Beijing, Tokyo and Washington agreed on July 10 to postpone a vote on their
draft resolution to give China time for a diplomatic mission.
China sent a previously-scheduled delegation led by Vice Premier Hui Liangyu to Pyongyang on th
July 10-15 to commemorate the 45 anniversary of the bilateral friendship treaty, and Hui
reportedly signed a new agreement on economic aid. But Kim Jong-il snubbed the PRC visitor.
Although China was given time for its diplomacy, Beijing intensified its criticism of Tokyo on
53 In a radio interview on July 8, 2006, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that North Korea announced it has
nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, but it is uncertain whether North Korea has the ability to mate a nuclear weapon
with a ballistic missile. Also, he said that North Korea has 3-5 more “Taepodong-2 airframes.”
54 The official China Daily, July 7, 2006.
July 11, calling its resolution an “overreaction.” Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill reported
from Beijing on July 12 that China’s diplomatic mission failed to achieve progress in getting
Pyongyang back to the talks.
On July 12, China (and Russia) reportedly dropped their pursuit of a draft statement to sponsor a
draft UNSC resolution that countered Japan’s resolution primarily by withholding authority under
Chapter VII (for sanctions or use of force). Still, China’s resolution called for nations to resume
the Six-Party Talks and refrain from supplying technology or funds to the DPRK’s missile
program. Despite similar goals, Beijing’s envoy threatened to veto Japan’s resolution.
Ultimately, negotiations led to UNSC Resolution 1695 that was adopted unanimously on July 15,
requiring all countries to prevent technology transfers to its missile or WMD programs, requiring
countries to prevent missile proliferation from the DPRK and financial transfers to its missile or
WMD programs, as well as urging the DPRK in particular to show restraint and return to the Six-
Party Talks (with implementation of the September 2005 Joint Statement and abandonment of all
nuclear weapons and nuclear programs). However, China’s statement on the resolution urged all
countries to practice restraint. Still, in her public reaction the next day, Secretary of State Rice
maintained that North Korea was “isolated” and singled out China for voting “affirmatively” for
the resolution, stressing that it requires countries to prevent dangerous technology transfers to
North Korea. While in St. Petersburg, Russia, the next day, for the Group of Eight summit,
President Bush thanked Hu Jintao for his “leadership” on the resolution. Also, on July 26, 2006,
the White House confirmed reports that in late 2005, China had frozen North Korean assets in the 55
Bank of China for counterfeiting the PRC currency.
Nonetheless, at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 20, 2006, Chairman
Richard Lugar pointed out that China facilitated talks on the DPRK while continuing to supply
key energy and lifelines into North Korea. He warned that although China wanted to avoid
regional instability, the missiles tests were destabilizing; China’s ability to secure global benefits
for its high economic growth rates depended on continued cooperation with the West; and
“Beijing must reassess its regional priorities.” It remained unclear whether China supported use
of Chapter VII, although Assistant Secretary Hill testified that the resolution’s language on
“international peace and security” was a reference to Chapter VII. Despite the UNSC resolution,
China criticized Japan’s sanctions on September 19 and refused to attend a meeting of eight
countries to discuss the DPRK at the U.N. two days later.
Meanwhile, in late September 2006, the House and Senate passed the conference report for the
National Defense Authorization Act for FY2007 (P.L. 109-364) that required the President to
appoint a North Korea Policy Coordinator who shall conduct a complete policy review and
report to Congress. The Administration did not comply with an appointment. Congress later
repealed the requirement in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2008 (P.L. 110-181).
On October 3, 2006, North Korea warned that it would conduct a nuclear test, and China reacted
the next day by singling out North Korea to use restraint. On October 9, North Korea conducted a
nuclear test. On the same day, even as President Bush reacted with no confirmation of the test,
55 Yonhap News, July 24, 2006; Reuters and Zhongguo Tongxun She, July 26, 2006.
China confidently expressed its “opposition” to North Korea for “flagrantly” conducting a nuclear
test. The next day, a PRC-owned newspaper in Hong Kong specifically reported that North Korea 56
conducted a nuclear test 300 meters underground with an explosion of 800 tons. China’s
strongly negative reaction to this nuclear test reflected a heighten fear of instability on its
periphery and frustration at North Korea’s defiance of China’s leaders. (On October 16, 2006, the
Director of National Intelligence publicly confirmed this nuclear test of “less than a kiloton.”
President Bush issued a formal determination on December 7, 2006, declaring that North Korea
detonated a nuclear explosive device on October 9, 2006.)
The PRC Foreign Ministry denied that the Six-Party Talks failed and still urged a resumption of
those talks, particularly between the United States and the DPRK. China also agreed to sanctions
imposed by the U.N. Security Council, but China opposed the use of force and applying the 57
Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), of which China is not a member. While the United States
and Japan urged tough sanctions, they compromised over days of negotiations with China and
Russia, which urged “balance” (with a targeted arms embargo, no ban on ships and aircraft,
restrictive language for “measures under Article 41” (sanctions) of Chapter VII, “cooperative”
action including cargo “inspections” to prevent weapons proliferation).
On October 14, 2006, China voted with all other members of the U.N. Security Council for
Resolution 1718, imposing sanctions to prevent the supply of major weapons as well as items
that could contribute to the DPRK’s nuclear, missile, or other WMD programs; luxury goods;
transfers of funds for those programs; travel by people responsible for those programs; and
inspection of cargo to prevent WMD proliferation. Secretary of State Rice praised China for its
“remarkable evolution.” On October 17, Rice left for Japan and South Korea (allies first), China,
and Russia, saying she expected every country to “fully implement all aspects” of Resolution
1718. She also defended the Administration’s approach, saying “what the President has done in
putting together this coalition, with China at the center of it willing to go along with Chapter 7, is 58
quite remarkable.” In Beijing, Rice boasted to traveling reporters on October 20 that “China is
now committed to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” rather than Washington dealing
bilaterally with Pyongyang.
However, China’s enforcement of the resolution was questionable, as it called for “cooperative
action” in “inspection” (and not interception or interdiction) of cargo. Also, while any PRC
sanctions under its strict interpretation of Resolution 1718 might seek to counter the DPRK’s
weapons-related activities, they might not be sufficiently broad or effective in achieving the
ultimate, unrealized goal of the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and programs.
China’s agreement to ban luxury goods might have indicated its disapproval of the defiance of
Kim’s regime, but “luxury goods” were not defined and North Korean elites reportedly continued
56 Ta Kung Pao, October 10, 2006.
57 China likely has concerns about any military action by Japan, including logistical support for U.S. naval ships
conducting inspection and interdiction at sea. Also, China became highly sensitive to U.S. inspection or interdiction at
sea in 1993, when China was the target of U.S. inspection of a cargo ship called Yinhe, which was suspected of
supplying chemicals to Iran. See CRS Report 96-767, Chinese Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction:
Background and Analysis, by Shirley A. Kan.
58 Secretary Condoleezza Rice, “Briefing on Upcoming Trip to Asia,” October 16, 2006.
to enjoy shopping sprees across the border in Dandong, China.59 Indeed, China increased the 60
export of banned luxury goods to North Korea from 2006 to 2007.
Immediately after voting for the resolution, the PRC ambassador stated his reservations that
“China does not approve of the practice of inspecting cargo” to and from the DPRK. After
imposition of sanctions, China’s customs agents reportedly carried out more stringent inspections 61
of cross-border traffic, perhaps to prevent dangerous transfers. China seemed to have tightened
“inspections” (to the letter of the resolution), without participation in military inspection or
interdiction at sea. Also, after the nuclear test, China’s major state-owned banks suspended 62
financial transactions with North Korea and then relaxed restrictions around mid-November.
Other than these initial and limited actions, PRC and foreign reports portrayed business as usual 63
in PRC trade with North Korea. The PRC Foreign Ministry also declared on October 17 that the
“China-DPRK border is normal.” China had numerous other options, including limiting its 64
exports to and imports from North Korea, valued at $1.6 billion in 2005. Limiting investments
there and cracking down on smuggling were other PRC options. On October 22, PRC media
reported the arrest of two people for smuggling uranium, possibly from North Korea, but that 65
arrest took place in September 2006, before the nuclear test. China also could have cut crude oil
supplies (up to 90% of the DPRK’s supplies). Some stoppage of supplies (in February 2005,
February 2006, and September 2006) was reported, but that took place before the DPRK’s nuclear
test and not as implementation of sanctions. Also, PRC provision of diesel fuel as assistance to
North Korea continued. The amount of crude oil that the PRC exported to the DPRK remained 66
the same in 2005 to 2007.
On October 31, 2006, the PRC announced a trilateral meeting among PRC, DPRK, and U.S.
officials in Beijing, at which they agreed to resume the Six-Party Talks “soon.” Meeting reporters
in the Oval Office, President Bush publicly thanked China for this bit of news. Nearly two
months later, what China called the “second phase” of the fifth round took place in Beijing on
December 18-22, 2006. China proposed “working groups”—including bilateral ones—and issued
a statement citing “useful” talks on how to implement the September 2005 Joint Statement.
However, Assistant Secretary Hill reported no breakthrough.
59 Gordon Fairclough, “Close-out Sale: North Korea’s Elite Shop While They Can,” Wall Street Journal, December 18,
60 Nicholas Kralev, “Chinese Exports Blunt U.N. Sanctions,” Washington Times, December 19, 2008, citing a report by
the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
61 AP, October 16, 2006; Yonhap, October 17, 2006; China Daily, October 19, 2006.
62 JijiWeb, Tokyo, October 25, 2006; a State Department official, November 13, 2006; JijiWeb, November 26, 2006;
Nihon Keizai Shimbun, November 28, 2006. The PRC foreign ministry denied on October 24 that the government
ordered the banks to stop “normal” commercial transactions with North Korea but did not deny the suspension of
63 Wen Wei Po, October 17, 2006; Huanqiu Shibao, October 19, 2006; New York Times, October 27, 2006.
64 Zhongguo Jingying Bao, October 16, 2006.
65 Liaoning Jingwang, Shenyang, October 22, 2006; Chosun Ilbo, Seoul, October 24, 2006.
66 New York Times, October 31, 2006; Yonhap, November 8, 2006; and Global Trade Atlas.
Significantly, on January 16-17, 2007, separately from the Six-Party Talks and for the first time
outside of Beijing, Hill traveled to Berlin and held a bilateral meeting with his North Korean
counterpart to make progress in the process of meetings. Hill indicated U.S. willingness and
flexibility to use a “bilateral mechanism,” with the specific approval of President Bush and 67
Secretary Rice to resolve the problem. Meanwhile in Beijing, Deputy Assistant Secretary of
Treasury Daniel Glaser held separate talks with the North Koreans on sanctions that froze North
Korean assets at a bank in Macau, Banco Delta Asia (BDA). On January 30, 2007, Glaser
resumed those talks in Beijing, and China said that the “third phase” would start on February 8.
On February 13, 2007, the six countries agreed to a joint statement based upon which North
Korea would shut down the Yongbyon nuclear facility and allow IAEA inspections. The DPRK
also would “discuss” with other parties a list of all nuclear programs that would be abandoned.
The United States agreed to start bilateral talks with the goal of a diplomatic relationship and the
removal of the DPRK from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Five Working Groups were
established: (1) denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula; (2) normalization of U.S.-DPRK
relations; (3) normalization of DPRK-Japan relations; (4) economic and energy cooperation; and
(5) Northeast Asian Peace and Security Mechanism. Based on the DPRK’s progress in meeting
the terms of the agreement, economic aid (including a total of one million tons of heavy fuel oil),
a ministerial meeting including Secretary of State Rice, and negotiations for permanent peace on
the Korean Peninsula were promised. Speaking in Washington, Secretary Rice also said that the
United States agreed to resolve, through a separate channel, the issue of whether to release North
Korean funds at Banco Delta Asia within 30 days.
Shortly after the February 13, 2007 agreement, Assistant Secretary Hill provided an updated
assessment of the DPRK’s highly enriched uranium (HEU) program, saying that North Korea
purchased some equipment (including Pakistani centrifuges from A.Q. Khan) and that there was a
question of whether its procured aluminum tubes were used in a HEU program. Hill also said “the 68
North Koreans have not acknowledged having an HEU program.” In addition, Joseph DeTrani,
Mission Manager for North Korea for the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), testified to
Congress on February 27 that whereas U.S. intelligence had “high confidence” in October 2002
that North Korea was acquiring material sufficient for a production-scale capability to enrich 69
uranium, there was a change to “mid-confidence.” An unnamed U.S. official clarified in June
confidence about the progress of the uranium enrichment program changed. This re-statement
could lend credence to PRC doubts about U.S. intelligence. (As mentioned above, in June 2004,
PRC’s Deputy Foreign Minister Zhou Wenzhong publicly questioned the credibility of U.S.
intelligence about North Korea’s uranium enrichment program.) The DNI told Congress in the
“Section 721 report” for 2007 that although North Korea halted and disabled portions of its
plutonium production program, “we assess with high confidence it has in the past pursued a
67 State Department, Christopher Hill’s briefing, Berlin, Germany, January 17, 2007.
68 Christopher Hill, “Update on the Six-Party Talks,” remarks to the Brookings Institution, Korea Economic Institute,
and Asia Society, February 22, 2007.
69 Senate Armed Services Committee, hearing on the “Annual Threat Assessment of the Director of National
Intelligence,” February 27, 2007.
70 Bill Gertz, “Data on N. Korea Centrifuges Sought,” Washington Times, June 12, 2007.
uranium enrichment capability that we judge is for nuclear weapons and assess with at least
moderate confidence that it continues to pursue such a capability.”
The “sixth round” of talks began on March 19, 2007, and then adjourned on March 22, with
North Korea demanding that its frozen funds (about $25 million) be released from Banco Delta
Asia in Macau. After the Treasury Department worked with Russia to release the $25 million to
North Korea on June 14, 2007, diplomacy resumed on the dismantlement of nuclear programs.
Again meeting bilaterally and away from Beijing, Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill visited
Pyongyang on June 21 and briefed reporters in Washington four days later on the U.S. goals for
the disablement of the DPRK’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor by the end of 2007 and “complete
clarity” on the highly enriched uranium program. On July 3, PRC Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi
was in Pyongyang to convey a message from Hu Jintao to Kim Jong-il that the September 2005
and February 2007 joint statements should be “fully implemented.” With the IAEA’s verification,
the DPRK shut down the nuclear reactor and related facilities at Yongbyon on July 14. The “Six-
Party Talks” resumed on July 18-20. However, the Joint Statement issued by the PRC did not
include a deadline for the DPRK’s declaration of all nuclear programs and disablement of all
A number of meetings involving the working groups were held in August and September 2007,
including bilateral talks. On September 1-2, 2007, Assistant Secretary Hill again held bilateral
negotiations with North Korea outside of the Six-Party Talks in Beijing, this time in Geneva. He
announced an agreement that the DPRK would provide a full declaration of all nuclear programs
and disable nuclear programs by the end of 2007. Nonetheless, Hill asserted that this was “not a 71
bilateral process,” while the PRC applauded the improved U.S.-DPRK relationship.
Meanwhile, on September 16, China provided its first shipment of 50,000 tons of heavy oil to th
North Korea. When China hosted the “second session of the 6 round of the Six-Party Talks” on
September 27-30 in Beijing, PRC Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei stressed the progress made by
the Working Groups. Days later, China issued a Joint Document on October 3, 2007. In the
statement, the DPRK agreed to disable all nuclear facilities, and this disablement focused on three
facilities (including the Yongbyon reactor site) to be completed by December 31, 2007. The
United States alone agreed to lead disablement work and provide funding. The DPRK also agreed
to provide a “complete and correct declaration” of all nuclear programs. The DPRK reaffirmed its
commitment on nuclear nonproliferation. The statement also discussed normalization of the U.S.-
DPRK and Japan-DPRK relationships and a ministerial-level meeting with no set dates.
(Also see CRS Report RL33590, North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Development and Diplomacy,
by Larry A. Niksch.)
71 State Department, “North Korea to Disable Nuclear Programs by End of 2007,” Geneva, Switzerland, September 2,
2007; “U.S.-DPRK Bilateral Working Group Talks End; DPRK Agrees to Declare its Nuclear Programs and Disable Its
Nuclear Facilities,” China News Agency, September 3, 2007; Xinhua, September 4 and 6, 2007.
However, the PRC-sponsored Joint Document of October 2007 raised a number of questions
about implementation, including about the disposition of nuclear equipment (in North Korea,
China, Russia, or elsewhere); disablement of nuclear facilities aside from the three cited; ultimate
dismantlement of nuclear facilities; U.S.-only funding and work for disablement; declaration of
nuclear weapons in addition to nuclear programs; clarification of uranium as well as plutonium
programs; missile and nuclear proliferation (with the North Korean-built nuclear reactor in Syria 72
just bombed by Israel in September); nuclear testing sites; verification and monitoring;
timelines for bilateral normalization; other concerns of the United States and Japan about human
rights, terrorism, and abductions; strains in the U.S.-Japan alliance; coordination with Seoul; and
the State Department’s consultations with Congress, Defense Department, and European allies.
In November 2007, U.S. Energy Department officials began to monitor disablement at Yongbyon,
including the unloading of reactor fuel rods. Approaching the end of 2007 deadline for
disablement and declaration, Assistant Secretary of State Hill went on his second visit to
Pyongyang in early December 2007, bringing a letter from President Bush to Kim Jong-il. PRC
Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei followed with his visit to Pyongyang on December 17-19, but
the visit also did not produce a declaration of nuclear programs. Upon the deadline of December
30, 2007, the State Department said it was “unfortunate” that North Korea failed to provide a
complete and correct declaration of all nuclear programs and slowed down disablement work, but
assured that diplomatic talks would continue. The PRC declined to express urgent concern,
calling the situation “normal.”
In early 2008, some critics contended that China failed to exert strong economic and diplomatic
leverage with North Korea even as it claimed credit for hosting the talks. Former Under Secretary
of State John Bolton wrote that “we are long past the point of allowing China to cover for Kim
Jong-Il without any cost in its relations with the U.S.” Jay Lefkowitz, President Bush’s Special
Envoy on North Korean human rights, questioned the “misguided assumption” that China would
apply significant pressure on North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons. He noted that the PRC’s 73
assistance to and trade with North Korea have “persisted with only brief interruptions.”
As the impasse continued into 2008, China’s role came into greater question. Coinciding with
State Department official Sung Kim’s visit to Pyongyang in late January/early February, Wang
Jiarui, Director of the International Department of the Communist Party of China traveled to
Pyongyang and met with Kim Jong-il, calling for “full implementation” of the agreements on
denuclearization. However, the DPRK did not provide a declaration to either official. Visiting
Beijing on February 26, Secretary of State Rice said she urged China to use all influence with the
DPRK to press it to provide the required complete and correct declaration. By early 2008, the
State Department also assigned a liaison official in Pyongyang.
Hill and DPRK Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan met bilaterally in Beijing on February 19
and in Geneva on March 13, 2008. In another meeting in Singapore in April, the United States
and North Korea reached an compromise agreement (without a released text) that North Korea
72 Barbara Opall-Rome and Vago Muradian, “Bush Privately Lauds Israeli Attack on Syria,” Defense News, January
14, 2008; Paul Richter, “West Says N. Korea, Syria Had Nuclear Link,” Los Angeles Times, January 17, 2008.
73 John Bolton, “North Korea’s True Colors,” Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2008; and Jay Lefkowitz, U.S. Special
Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea, “North Korean Human Rights and U.S. National Security,” speech at AEI,
January 17, 2008.
would declare its plutonium but separately “acknowledge” its uranium enrichment program and 74
the nuclear reactor it built in Syria that Israel bombed the previous September. On May 8 in
Pyongyang, the DPRK provided to visiting U.S. State Department official, Sung Kim, documents
related to plutonium production since 1986 at the Yongbyon facilities. The State Department
continued to call for a complete and correct declaration from North Korea for outside verification.
Days later, when Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte visited Beijing on May 12, PRC
Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi applauded the bilateral negotiation between the United States and
the DPRK, while they discussed a Northeast Asian peace and security mechanism. In late May,
Hill returned to Beijing to continue asking for the DPRK’s declaration.
On June 17-19, 2008, PRC Vice President and Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee
Member Xi Jinping visited Pyongyang and promised gifts to the DPRK regime in the form of
that Xi Jinping provided “aid” to the DPRK.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rice gave a speech on June 18, defending the “Six Party Talks”
and reliance on China. She said, “our decision to support China as the chair of the six-party talks
has also been a strong incentive for Beijing to conduct itself responsibly” on North Korea. She
said that a goal is to formalize “these patterns of cooperation” into a Northeast Asian peace and
security mechanism. She continued to state that the objective is to verifiably eliminate “all of
North Korea’s nuclear weapons and programs.” Rice stated that North Korea has proliferated
nuclear technology to Syria and has pursued a uranium enrichment program, although the extent
of those activities was unclear. She disclosed that there was troubling new information about
North Korea’s uranium enrichment capability. She said that after North Korea delivered its
declaration of nuclear programs to China, President Bush would notify Congress of his intention
to remove North Korea from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and to lift sanctions under the
Trading with the Enemy Act. But she warned that “before those actions go into effect,” the United
States would assess North Korea’s cooperation in verifying that nuclear declaration. Rice
stressed, “we are insisting on verification.” She called for rigorous verification as based on a
detailed plan and involving the other five countries as well as the IAEA; on-site access to
facilities; collection and removal of samples; forensic analysis of materials and equipment at
North Korean sites and facilities; access to design documents and other records “for all facilities
associated with production and processing of all nuclear materials in North Korea;” and 76
interviews with North Koreans.
A week after PRC leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Pyongyang, the DPRK complied with a partial
declaration on its plutonium program. PRC Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei issued a statement
on June 26, 2008, telling the DPRK to submit its nuclear declaration to China that day and also
telling the United States to remove the DPRK from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and
from sanctions under the Trading with the Enemy Act. Wu stated that there was agreement only
on a “set of principles to guide the establishment of a verification regime.”
74 Glenn Kessler, “U.S. Ready to Ease Sanctions on N. Korea,” Washington Post, April 11, 2008.
75 Yonhap, Seoul, July 4, 2008; PRC Foreign Ministry news conference, Beijing, July 8, 2008.
76 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, “U.S. Policy Toward Asia,” speech at the Heritage Foundation, June 18, 2008.
On the same day, President Bush quickly complied with U.S. actions. He removed North Korea
from sanctions under the Trading with the Enemy Act and notified Congress of his intention to
rescind North Korea’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism to be possible in 45 days. Bush
did not condition his actions on verification of the DPRK’s nuclear programs, weapons, and
proliferation, saying that “we will work through the six-party talks to develop a comprehensive
and rigorous verification protocol.” Speaking on the same day about the President’s actions,
National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley acknowledged that he had not yet seen the declaration 77
and that he was relying on a “process” to get a verification protocol in place within 45 days. The
next day, U.S. officials traveled to Yongbyon for a symbolic show when the cooling tower of the
reactor was destroyed. These moves came after the United States agreed to pay $2.5 million for
that televised explosion and to accept a concession for North Korean “acknowledgments” on
uranium and proliferation. Moreover, the United States reportedly agreed with PRC demands to 78
keep the declaration secret.
Secretary of State Rice then traveled to Beijing at the end of June to praise China’s “leading role”
and to press for the need for a framework for verification and monitoring, acknowledging that
“we moved some of the verification steps up into the second phase.” (As discussed above, the
Joint Document of October 2007 left a number of unsettled questions about implementation,
including verification.) While Rice stressed the need to agree on verification and monitoring, 79
PRC Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi did not mention this need in their public comments.
For the first time since the previous September, the formal format of the Six-Party Talks resumed
in Beijing on July 10-12, 2008, along with a bilateral U.S.-DPRK meeting in Beijing on July 8, to
discuss the broad U.S. proposal for a verification protocol. The “Six-Party Talks” issued a press
statement on agreeing to set up a verification framework, but that fell short of the U.S.
requirements for rigorous verification, as Secretary Rice specified in June. There was no primary
role for the IAEA and no mention of sampling, forensics, or schedules. Still, Rice allowed a
ministerial meeting with her DPRK counterpart on July 23 at a regional meeting in Singapore.
President Bush did not take the DPRK off the terrorism list when legally possible on August 11.
North Korea announced on August 26 that it suspended disablement at Yongbyon on August 14.
The PRC Foreign Ministry’s reaction was to call for “patience.”
Assistant Secretary of State Hill returned to Beijing in early September, contending that China
understood the “urgency” and praising China’s role in chairing the talks as “excellent,” “active,”
“superb,” and “crucial.” He outlined the limited goal for the DPRK, “not asking for the
declaration to be verified now,” but “simply asking for the rules of how it will be verified.” He
acknowledged that the DPRK’s declaration was not yet verifiable. Still, Hill also stated that after
North Korea agreed on a verification protocol, then the United States would immediately remove
North Korea from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. In the same month, National Security
Advisor Hadley conceded that North Korea’s nuclear declaration “was not the complete and
correct declaration that we had hoped.” Nonetheless, he stated that after the DPRK accepts the
77 White House, “Statement by the Press Secretary on North Korea,” “Memorandum for the Secretary of State,”
“President Bush Discusses North Korea,” and “National Security Advisor Hadley Holds White House News Briefing
on the North Korean Nuclear Declaration,” June 26, 2008.
78 Glenn Kessler, “Message to U.S. Preceded Nuclear Declaration by North Korea,” Washington Post, July 2, 2008;
Bill Gertz, “Inside the Ring,” Washington Times, July 24, 2008.
79 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, “Remarks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang” and “Remarks with the Press
in Beijing,” Beijing, June 29 and 30, 2008.
verification protocol, it would be taken off the terrorism list.80 Instead, on September 22, the
DPRK provocatively asked IAEA inspectors to remove surveillance cameras and seals at the
reactor and then announced intention to resume nuclear reprocessing at Yongbyon.
Hill went back to Pyongyang on October 1-3, and afterwards, China applauded those bilateral
negotiations. On October 11, 2008, in Washington, the United States announced a bilateral
“agreement” with North Korea on “verification measures” that would include sampling and
forensics and would be applied to plutonium, uranium, and proliferation programs. But there
would not be a standard, primary role for the IAEA. The State Department issued a press
statement and a fact sheet, but not the U.S.-DPRK “agreement” itself. The State Department
vaguely cited agreement in a written joint document and “certain other understandings” for 81
measures that “will serve as the baseline for a Verification Protocol.” However, despite the lack
of a verification protocol, a timeline for one, or an agreement at the “Six-Party Talks,” the
Secretary of State “immediately” rescinded the designation of the DPRK as a State Sponsor of
Terrorism. This controversial decision was a retreat from the earlier U.S. position of first getting
DPRK acceptance of a verification protocol, as officials stated.
Even then, on November 12, the DPRK denied it had agreed to all the U.S. verification measures,
specifically sampling, in the written agreement negotiated with Hill. After bilateral talks between
Hill and his DPRK counterpart in Singapore on December 4-5, negotiators convened the “Six-
Party Talks” in Beijing on December 8-11 but failed to get the DPRK’s agreement on an effective
verification protocol, despite the U.S.-DPRK “agreement” in October and what the United States
called China’s “crucial” role.
Critics charged that the “Six-Party Talks” saw their “final collapse,” failed even to address the
DPRK’s nuclear weapons, and drove wedges into the U.S.-Japan and U.S.-South Korea alliances.
In this view, the United States could put pressure on Beijing to use its leverage more effectively 82
on Pyongyang, instead of giving concessions to North Korea and compliments to China.
Beginning in 2000, public reports appeared on PRC assistance to Libya’s missile program. The
Defense Department discovered in December 1999 that the PRC had plans to build a hypersonic
wind tunnel in Libya for missile design, reported the Washington Times (January 21, 2000). A
classified March 2, 2000 report by the NSA was said by the newspaper to describe the PRC’s
missile technology transfer to Libya that month, helping Libya to develop the Al Fatah SRBM
with a range of 600 miles. CPMIEC allegedly began cooperating with Libya in March 1999,
according to the Washington Times (April 13, 2000). The June 30, 2000 Washington Times, citing
a classified NSA report, said that the PRC was training Libyan missile experts at the Beijing
80 Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, “Evening Walkthrough at Six-Party Talks,” September 6; “Press
Briefing by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley on Upcoming U.N. General Assembly,” September 20, 2008.
81 State Department, “U.S.-DPRK Agreement on Denuclearization Verification Measures,” “Fact Sheet, U.S.-North
Korea Understandings on Verification,” “On the Record Briefing: Special Envoy for the Six-Party Talks Ambassador
Sung Kim, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Sean McCormack, Assistant Secretary of State for
Verification, Compliance, and Implementation Paula DeSutter, and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International
Security and Nonproliferation Patricia McNerney on North Korea,” October 11, 2008.
82 “Condi’s Korean Failure,” editorial, Wall Street Journal, December 16, 2008; Yoichi Kato, “Richard Armitage: Bush
Administration Lacked Accountability,” Asahi Shimbun, December 27, 2008; John Bolton, “Obama Promises Bush III
on Iran,” Wall Street Journal, January 2, 2009.
University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Aside from wind tunnels, PRC aid has also covered
navigational and guidance systems, reported Jane’s Defense Weekly (February 13, 2002). The
DCI’s “Section 721 report” of August 2000 confirmed PRC missile assistance to Libya for the
first time. The DCI’s November 2003 report said that in the first half of 2003, Libya continued to
depend on assistance from PRC and other “entities” for developing ballistic missiles. A report in
design that originated in China, raising questions about its role in weapons proliferation.
However, after Libya agreed to abandon WMD programs, Jane’s Defense Weekly reported on
August 18, 2004, that inspectors found that Libya had not built a wind tunnel. The DNI’s
“Section 721 report” told Congress in 2006 that “firms” in China continued in 2004 to provide
dual-use missile-related items, raw materials, or assistance to Libya.
A Pentagon report in 2001 said that PRC firms, in addition to North Korean and Russian entities, 84
contributed equipment and technology to Syria’s liquid fuel missile program. However, while
criticizing North Korean and Russian assistance to Syria’s ballistic missile development, Under
Secretary of State John Bolton did not cite PRC help at a speech at the Heritage Foundation on
May 6, 2002. The “Section 721 reports” have not specified PRC assistance for Syria’s missile
In the unclassified “Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD,”
issued on September 30, 2004, Charles Duelfer provided some details about Iraq’s past
procurement efforts from a number of countries, including China, before the war that began in
2003. The top three countries with entities receiving oil vouchers were Russia (30%), France
(15%), and China (10%). “Firms in China” supplied Iraq with “limited but critical items,
including gyroscopes, accelerometers, graphite, and telecommunications.” In mid-2001, an
unidentified PRC firm reportedly supplied 10-20 gyros and 20 accelerometers for use in Iraq’s Al-
Samud ballistic missile. PRC supplies provided Iraq with “prohibited items, mainly
telecommunication equipment and items with ballistic missile applications.” The report referred
to unnamed and named entities in China that supplied missile-related technology, including
NORINCO, “Chinese High Committee for Electronic Warfare,” CIEC Company, SIAM Premium
Products, and CPMIEC. The report also noted that “from 2002, until the beginning of hostilities
in 2003, Iraq imported rocket guidance software from China disguised as children’s computer
software. The software was used to guide the missiles Iraq fired at U.S. Forces in Kuwait during
the initial hostilities in 2003. Iraq paid for the software with hard currency or oil.”
Nonetheless, the report contended that “there is no evidence to suggest Chinese Government
complicity in supplying prohibited goods to Iraq. It is likely that newly privatized state-owned
companies were willing to circumvent export controls and official U.N. monitoring to supply
prohibited goods.” The report also alluded to indications that the PRC government had intervened
in some deals to stop them.
83 Joby Warrick and Peter Slevin, “Libyan Arms Designs Traced Back to China,” Washington Post, February 15, 2004.
Also, see Bill Gertz, “Chinese Documents,” Washington Times, September 11, 2008.
84 Secretary of Defense, Proliferation: Threat and Response, January 2001.
Weapons proliferation by the PRC and/or its organizations raises policy issues concerning: (1)
assessments of the nature and seriousness of the PRC government’s role in the proliferation
threat; (2) the priority of this issue relative to other U.S. interests (i.e., other security issues,
Taiwan, trade, human rights); and (3) U.S. leadership and leverage (including the use of sanctions
and diplomacy, and congressional actions) to obtain China’s cooperation in nonproliferation.
Successive Administrations have pursued a policy of “engagement” with Beijing. Some
policymakers and advocates stress a cooperative approach. In 1998, President Clinton issued
certifications to implement the 1985 Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. The Clinton
Administration also encouraged the PRC to join the MTCR and proposed to allow more PRC
satellite launches. In November 2000, the State Department agreed to waive sanctions and
consider new satellite exports in return for another missile non-proliferation pledge from China.
Some officials and experts cite PRC nonproliferation statements as signs that the United States
made progress in nonproliferation goals. Some also say that U.S. sanctions are counterproductive
and are too broad. Rather, they assert that China needs to recognize nonproliferation for its own
national interests and develop stronger export controls, perhaps with U.S. assistance. Also, some
stress that China would be more cooperative if brought in to draw up “the rules.” Some argue that
“entities” in China largely operate without the PRC government’s knowledge.
Critics argue that the “engagement” policy needs a tougher approach to counter China’s activities
that undermine U.S. security interests. They note that PRC weapons proliferation activities have
continued and repeated PRC assurances have proved to be unreliable. Also, they say that U.S.
security interests are better served with a stronger approach to stigmatize sensitive transfers,
which would include some sanctions. Some argue that the United States should not subsidize
China’s missile and nuclear industries. These proponents tend to see U.S. leverage over China as
stronger than China’s influence against the United States. Some are skeptical that China sees
nonproliferation as in its national interest, since Beijing has made progress in nonproliferation
commitments as part of improving relations with Washington (surrounding summits) and tried to
use its sales as a form of leverage against Washington, especially on the issue of U.S. arms sales
to Taiwan. They stress that PRC export controls are weak, even as government repression can be
harsh (e.g., against journalists or dissidents). They also doubt that trade in sensitive nuclear
weapons and missile technology can continue without the knowledge of the PRC government
and/or its military, especially given the status of certain state-owned and defense-industrial
enterprises as “serial proliferators.”
Concerning the debate about any knowledge or approval of the PRC government, at a hearing of
the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 19, 2002, DCI George Tenet told Senator Carl
Levin that while PRC firms sometimes operate on their own, there are instances in which
“activities are condoned by the government.” The DCI’s January 2003 “Section 721 report” to
Congress noted that PRC entities could have continued contacts with Pakistani nuclear weapons
facilities “without Beijing’s knowledge or permission,” but this comment was dropped from the
April 2003 report. The Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Vice Admiral Lowell
Jacoby, testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee on February 24, 2004, that PRC entities
“remain involved with nuclear and missile programs in Pakistan and Iran,” while “in some cases,”
the entities are involved without the government’s knowledge, implying that there might be cases
in which the PRC government has knowledge of the relationships. The Bush Administration
repeatedly waived missile proliferation sanctions on certain activities of the PRC government (vs.
“enti ti es ”).
No matter what options are pursued, many argue that U.S. leadership and a forward-looking and
credible strategy are needed for dealing with China’s rising influence in world affairs. A strategic
approach might underpin short-term responses to violations and use both positive and negative
sources of leverage. Policy issues have often centered on summitry, sanctions, and satellite
After the downturn in U.S.-PRC relations because of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, the Clinton
Administration resumed high-level exchanges in 1993 and argued that “comprehensive
engagement” with China advances U.S. security goals, including nonproliferation. President
Clinton granted Jiang Zemin summits in Washington, on October 29, 1997, and in Beijing, on
June 29, 1998. Leading up to the 1997 summit, the Administration urged China to adopt
“comprehensive, nationwide regulations on nuclear export control.” China responded by
implementing a set of regulations on nuclear export controls signed by Premier Li Peng on
September 10, 1997. The regulations permit nuclear exports to only facilities under IAEA
safeguards. China also joined the Zangger Committee (on nuclear trade) on October 16, 1997.
Then, China issued new export control regulations on dual-use nuclear items on June 17, 1998.
The 1998 summit in Beijing produced an agreement on non-targeting nuclear weapons, and joint
statements on South Asia and on biological weapons. But China refused to join the MTCR,
saying that it was “actively studying” whether to join.
President Bush raised the unresolved missile proliferation issue in Shanghai in October 2001 and
in Beijing in February 2002. As Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage arrived in Beijing to
discuss the Bush-Jiang summit in Crawford, TX, on October 25, 2002, China, on August 25,
2002, published the missile export control regulations promised in November 2000, along with a
control list that is modeled on the MTCR. In addition, on October 14, 2002, the PRC issued
regulations for export controls over dual-use biological agents. China continued to approach
weapon nonproliferation as more a part of the U.S.-PRC relationship than a commitment to
international nonproliferation standards. At that summit, President Bush called China an “ally” in
the fight against terrorism.
With the improvement in U.S.-PRC relations, however, some observers say that President Bush
has not forcefully pressed China’s leaders on weapons nonproliferation as a priority issue, even 85
while imposing numerous U.S. sanctions. Briefing reporters on President Bush’s meeting with
85 For example, Robert Einhorn, former Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation in the Clinton Administration,
PRC President Hu Jintao in France on June 1, 2003, a senior White House official acknowledged
that the two leaders did not discuss U.S. sanctions on NORINCO (which the Administration had
just imposed on May 23, 2003, for missile technology transfers to Iran) and that President Hu did 86
not respond to Bush’s general concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons program. In Thailand in
October 2003, at another meeting between the two presidents, Bush asserted that they had a “very
constructive dialogue” on trade, Iraq, counter-terrorism, and North Korea, but he did not mention
weapons proliferation as an issue with China, although the Administration had imposed another 87
set of missile proliferation sanctions on NORINCO a month earlier. While the White House
hosted PRC Premier Wen Jiabao on December 9, 2003, a senior official told reporters that “the
President applauded the new Chinese white paper on nonproliferation but noted that there is a
need for tough implementation of the commitments contained in that white paper” (just issued on
December 3, 2003, on the eve of Wen’s visit). But again, Bush did not highlight the issue of 88
weapons proliferation with China in his public remarks.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, added a compelling U.S. interest in considering U.S.
policy on PRC weapons proliferation. With questions about the viability of Pakistan’s
government after it gave strong support to the anti-terrorism war, the United States could seek
intelligence from the PRC about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons as well as cooperation in not further
adding to instability in South Asia. Also, the Bush Administration could maintain or strengthen its
response to the proliferation problem, since PRC entities have reportedly transferred nuclear,
missile, and/or chemical weapons technology to sponsors of terrorism (listed by the State
Department), such as Iran. If the Administration lifts sanctions for cooperating countries, options
include waiving proliferation sanctions on the PRC.
On December 11, 2002, President Bush issued his National Strategy to Combat WMD, resting on
the three pillars of counter-proliferation, nonproliferation, and response. The first pillar, counter-
proliferation, included interdiction, deterrence, and defense (including preemptive measures and
missile defenses). Some say that missile defense plays a critical role in the strategy to counter the
proliferation threat. Others say the September 2001 attacks increased doubts about the likelihood
of terrorists using missiles for weapons delivery. China has opposed U.S. deployment of missile
criticized the Bush Administration saying that “sanctions are used, but they are usually simply imposed rather than used
as a vehicle for trying to leverage better behavior. ... There seems to be no real strategy today to try to promote
continued improvement in China’s nonproliferation record,” (“China and Non-Proliferation,” National Interest, April 2,
2003). William Kristol, of the Project for the New American Century, in a memo to opinion leaders, dated June 4,
2003, argued that “real progress in U.S.-China relations is unlikely if the president is less than forceful and candid with
his Chinese counterpart on issues of importance to the United States.” Also see Susan Lawrence, “U.S. Presses China
on Arms, Quietly,” Wall Street Journal, October 30, 2003.
86 White House, “Background Press Briefing by Senior Administration Official on the President’s Meeting with
Chinese President Hu,” Evian, France, June 1, 2003.
87 White House, “Remarks by President Bush and President Hu Jintao of China,” Bangkok, Thailand, October 19,
88 White House, “Remarks by President Bush and Premier Wen Jiabao in Arrival Ceremony” and “Background
Briefing on President’s Meeting with Chinese Premier Wen,” December 9, 2003.
defense systems and related cooperation with Japan or Taiwan and threatened to significantly
increase its nuclear missile force. China is concerned that missile defense would spur an arms
race, negate its deterrence capabilities, forge closer U.S.-Taiwan military cooperation, and violate
the MTCR. During Defense Secretary William Cohen’s visit to China in July 2000, the PRC
reportedly warned that it would continue missile proliferation activities if the United States
provides missile defense to Taiwan (Washington Post, July 12, 2000). Also, top PRC arms control
official Sha Zukang warned that the PRC would withhold cooperation on arms control and
weapons nonproliferation in response to U.S. deployment of NMD, reported the Washington Post
(July 14, 2000). Others say that PRC proliferation activities and missile buildups would continue
On May 31, 2003, in Poland, President Bush announced the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)
to step up multinational efforts at interdiction and intelligence-sharing. The United States faces a
challenge in obtaining China’s cooperation in counter-proliferation (e.g., interdiction of
shipments, inspections, or intelligence-sharing), given its long-lasting negative and emotional
reaction to U.S. inspection in 1993 of the PRC ship, Yinhe, which was suspected of carrying
chemicals for Iran. Also, China might have greater doubts about the credibility of U.S.
intelligence after President Bush launched the controversial war on Iraq in 2003 and failed to find
WMD in Iraq.
China has not joined the PSI. China did not join the 11 original PSI members plus Norway,
Denmark, Singapore, and Canada in sending representatives to a meeting in Washington on
December 16-17, 2003, even though it took place just days after Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to 89
Washington. In October 2004, a PRC Foreign Ministry spokesman expressed concerns that the 90
PSI might allow “military interception, which is beyond the limits of international law.”
Nonetheless, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton
visited Beijing on February 16, 2004, and he revealed that “in the past several years, we have had
cooperation with China in some interdiction efforts.” While in Tokyo on October 27, 2004,
Bolton said in a speech that “we are pleased with China’s cooperation with the United States to
block the export of chemicals that could have been used in North Korea’s nuclear weapons
The 9/11 Commission issued its final report on July 22, 2004, and it urged that the United States th
encourage China (and Russia) to join the PSI, among many recommendations. The 110
Congress considered H.R. 1, the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of
2007. The House-passed bill of January 9, 2007, noted that the Commission called on China to
participate in PSI. The Senate passed its bill on July 9 without such language. The Conference
Report of July 25 adopted the House provisions on the commission’s recommendations and on
the sense of Congress that the President should expand and strengthen the PSI. The bill became
P.L. 110-53 on August 3, 2007.
89 Department of State, “Proliferation Security Initiative: Next Experts Meeting, China’s Role,” December 3, 2003.
90 “Ministry of Foreign Affairs Says China Will Not Participate in Proliferation Security Initiative,” Zhongguo Xinwen
She, October 26, 2004.
The United States may provide assistance to strengthen China’s export controls, including the
areas of legislation, regulations, licensing, customs, border security, and law-enforcement. The
Departments of Commerce and State testified to the Senate Governmental Affairs Subcommittee
on International Security, Proliferation, and Federal Services on June 6, 2002, that such bilateral
exchanges were very limited.
Periodically, China has tried to link the issues of missile proliferation and U.S. conventional arms
sales for Taiwan’s defense. Congress has exercised oversight of the Administration’s response to
any direct or indirect linkage. After President George H. W. Bush approved the sale of 150 F-
16A/B fighters to Taiwan in September 1992, the PRC ended its participation in the “Arms
Control in the Middle East” talks. During the 1998 summit in Beijing, the Clinton White House
reportedly considered a PRC request for a U.S. pledge to deny missile defense sales to Taiwan, if
China promised to stop missile sales to Iran; but no agreement was reached, reported the Far
Eastern Economic Review (July 16, 1998). On February 26, 2002, before the Director General in
charge of arms control at the PRC Foreign Ministry, Liu Jieyi, attended meetings in Washington
on March 4-6, an unnamed PRC foreign ministry official told the Associated Press that the United
States “can’t just accuse us of violating our commitments and at the same time, sell large amounts
of arms to Taiwan,” since such arms sales are “also a kind of proliferation.” On July 24, 2004,
Wen Wei Po, a PRC-owned newspaper in Hong Kong, quoted an unnamed high-level official of
the PRC Foreign Ministry as linking weapons nonproliferation to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
Nonetheless, State Department officials have said that China has not posed Taiwan as a “tactical
issue” in discussions about North Korea. (See discussion on North Korea above.) The
Administration has cited the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) as committing the United States to
provide defense articles and services to help Taiwan’s sufficient self-defense. In 2006, Taiwan
expressed interest in buying F-16C/D fighters.
There have been debates about U.S. policy using satellite exports to gain China’s cooperation in
missile nonproliferation. Since 1988, the policy of granting licenses to export satellites to China
as well as Presidential waivers of post-Tiananmen sanctions (Section 902 of P.L. 101-246) have
allowed satellites to be exported for launch by China Great Wall Industry Corp. (the same
company sanctioned for missile proliferation) and—increasingly—for China’s own use. During
the Clinton Administration, the National Security Council, in a purported Secret memo on
bilateral talks leading up to the 1998 summit (dated March 12, 1998, and printed in the March 23,
1998 Washington Times), proposed to expand space cooperation, increase the number of satellite
launches, issue a blanket Presidential waiver of sanctions, and support China’s membership in the
MTCR—in return for PRC missile export controls. On November 21, 2000, the State Department
said it would waive sanctions, again process—not necessarily approve—licenses (suspended in
February 2000) to export satellites to China, and discuss an extension of the bilateral space launch
agreement (which later expired at the end of 2001), in return for another PRC promise on missile
However, on September 1, 2001, the Bush Administration imposed sanctions for two years on a
PRC company, the China Metallurgical Equipment Corporation (CMEC), for proliferation of
missile technology to Pakistan, denying satellite exports to China. Before those sanctions expired,
the State Department determined on August 29, 2003, that NORINCO substantially contributed to
missile proliferation of Category II MTCR items and imposed sanctions that again effectively
banned satellite exports to China. (See Sanctions below.) The last Presidential waiver for satellite
exports to China was issued in February 1998. (See also CRS Report 98-485, China: Possible
Missile Technology Transfers Under U.S. Satellite Export Policy—Actions and Chronology, by
Shirley A. Kan.)
Policy debates concerning PRC technology transfers have often centered on the questions of
whether to impose unilateral sanctions under U.S. laws, to enact new legislation to tighten
mandates for sanctions or reports, or to integrate the multiple laws. Also, there have been the
issues of whether to target the PRC government or PRC “entities” (usually state-owned defense
industrial organizations, like CPMIEC or NORINCO) and whether the PRC government lacks the
will or the capability to enforce its stated nonproliferation policy. Decisions on sanctions impact
U.S. credibility and leverage on the non-proliferation issue. While certain PRC transfers may not
violate any international treaties, sanctions may be required under U.S. laws that Congress passed
to set U.S. nonproliferation policy and shore up nonproliferation treaties and standards. These
laws, as amended, include:
• Export-Import Bank Act (P.L. 79-173)
• Arms Export Control Act (AECA) (P.L. 90-629)
• Export Administration Act (EAA) (P.L. 96-72)
• Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act (Title VIII of P.L. 103-236)
• Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act (P.L. 102-484)
• Iran Nonproliferation Act (P.L. 106-178); that became the Iran, North Korea, and
Syria Nonproliferation Act (P.L. 109-353)
• Executive Order 12938, as amended by Executive Order 13094
• Executive Order 13382.
(On legislation requiring sanctions, see also CRS Report RL31502, Nuclear, Biological,
Chemical, and Missile Proliferation Sanctions: Selected Current Law, by Dianne Rennack.)
Underlying the question of whether sanctions should be used are disagreements about the most
effective approach for curbing dangerous PRC sales and promoting U.S. interests and leadership.
Some argue that a cooperative approach, rather than sanctions, is more effective. Others say that
current sanctions are not effective in countering the PRC’s proliferation practices (especially with
certain entities being repeatedly sanctioned, negligible penalties, and sanctions targeting
companies but not the government) and that legislation requiring sanctions should be toughened.
Still others say sanctions stigmatize countries, signal U.S. resolve, and shore up U.S. credibility
on this important security issue. Another option is to use senior-level diplomacy to achieve goals
along with sanctions to deter proliferation.
As for whether to impose or waive missile proliferation sanctions, on November 21, 2000, the
Clinton Administration agreed to waive missile proliferation sanctions, again process—not
necessarily approve—licenses to export satellites to China, and discuss an extension of the
bilateral space launch agreement, in return for a new PRC pledge on missile nonproliferation and
a promise to issue missile export controls.
However, continued PRC transfers again raised the issue of imposing sanctions. By July 2001, the
United States formally protested to China about its compliance with the agreement, reported the
Washington Post (July 27, 2001). Visiting Beijing ahead of President Bush’s trip to Shanghai in
October 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell, on July 28, 2001, noted “outstanding issues”
about China’s implementation of its November 2000 commitment.
In contrast to the Clinton Administration, the Bush Administration repeatedly imposed sanctions
on PRC “entities” (but not the PRC government) for transfers (related to ballistic missiles,
chemical weapons, and cruise missiles) to Pakistan and Iran, under the Arms Export Control Act,
Export Administration Act, Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000, Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation
Act of 1992, Executive Order 12938, and Executive Order 13382. (See Table 1: PRC Entities
Sanctioned for Weapons Proliferation.) About half of the PRC entities, “serial proliferators,” have
faced repeated sanctions, raising questions about effectiveness.
Among the actions, on September 1, 2001, the Bush Administration imposed sanctions (for two
years) on a PRC company, the China Metallurgical Equipment Corporation (CMEC), for
proliferation of missile technology (Category II items) to Pakistan. The sanctions had the effect of
denying licenses for two years for the export of satellites to China for its use or launch by its
aerospace entities, because the Category II sanctions deny U.S. licenses to transfer missile
equipment or technology (MTCR Annex items) to any PRC “person,” which is defined by the so-
called “Helms Amendment” (Section 74(a)(8)(B) of the AECA, P.L. 90-629) as all PRC
government activity affecting the development or production of missiles, electronics, space
systems, and military aircraft, and the State Department considers that satellites are covered by
the MTCR Annex (since it includes satellite parts).
In Beijing with the President in February 2002, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said
that the PRC should stop “grandfathering” contracts signed before November 2000. On August
just before Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage arrived in Beijing to discuss an upcoming
Bush-Jiang summit, showing that China still viewed nonproliferation in the context of relations
with the United States. Armitage welcomed the new regulations but added that further discussions
were needed. The State Department spokesperson stressed that questions remained about
enforcement of the controls and reductions in PRC proliferation practices. With questions about
enforcement and effectiveness of the controls, President Bush did not waive the sanctions
imposed in September 2001.
Moreover, the regulations raised a number of questions, including the roles of the Ministry of
Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation (MOFTEC) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Part 1 of
that control list (missiles and other delivery systems) and dual-use items (in Part 2) for military
use are subject to the Regulations on Administering Arms Exports issued in 1997, under the
jurisdiction of the State Council and Central Military Commission (China’s military command).
Also, unlike the MTCR, the PRC’s regulations on missile-related exports do not state a strong
presumption to deny transfers of Category I items or any missiles or other items judged to be
intended to deliver any WMD.
In the 107th Congress, Senator Fred Thompson inserted a section in the FY2003 National Defense
Authorization Act (enacted on December 2, 2002, as Section 1209 in P.L. 107-314) to require the
DCI to submit semi-annual reports that identify PRC and other foreign entities contributing to
weapons proliferation. However, in his signing statement, President Bush stated that he would
construe this and several other sections in a manner consistent with the President’s constitutional
authority to “withhold information,” if disclosure could harm foreign relations, national security,
or the Executive Branch’s duties.
Before the September 2001 sanctions expired, the State Department determined on August 29,
2003, that NORINCO substantially contributed to missile proliferation of Category II MTCR
items in a publicly unidentified country and imposed sanctions for two years that ban the issuance
to NORINCO of export licenses or U.S. government contracts for missile equipment or
technology, and that ban the importation of NORINCO’s products.
Complicating U.S. considerations, the “Helms Amendment” again applied—denying exports of
satellites to China, but the Bush Administration contended that it was “essential to national
security” to waive for one year the sanction on imports when applied to other PRC government
activities relating to missiles, electronics, space systems, and military aircraft. The sanctions took
effect on September 19, 2003. Within a year, the Administration had to decide on the broader
sanctions on imports of non-NORINCO products, which could have affected an estimated $12 91
billion in imports from the PRC, according to one estimate. After the one-year waiver passed,
the State Department five times extended the waiver on the import sanction against certain
activities of the PRC government for six more months and then permanently waived the sanction
in March 2007. However, the Administration did not point to any new nonproliferation
cooperation from China. Options for Congress include: maintaining, deleting, or amending the
“Helms Amendment,” such as changing the language that covers “electronics” or a review by the
Commerce Department on whether to change China’s “non-market economy” status, based upon
which the “Helms Amendment” has broadened missile proliferation sanctions.
During the 106th Congress, in May 2000, Senator Fred Thompson, along with Senator Robert
Torricelli, introduced S. 2645, the “China Nonproliferation Act,” to require annual reviews (based
on “credible information”), sanctions, and use of the U.S. securities market as a policy tool. (In
September 2000, the Senate passed (65-32) a motion to table the legislation as an amendment to th
the bill granting China permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status.) In the 107 Congress,
Senator Thompson inserted a section in the FY2003 Intelligence Authorization Act (enacted on
November 27, 2002, as Section 827 in P.L. 107-306) to require the DCI to submit annual reports
on PRC and other foreign companies that are involved in weapons proliferation and raise funds in
U.S. capital markets. Reporting the bill on May 13, 2002, the Senate Intelligence Committee (in th
S.Rept. 107-149) added that it did not intend to restrict access to those markets. The 108
Congress passed the FY2004 Intelligence Authorization Act (P.L. 108-177) that included Section
91 Susan Lawrence, “Duel Over Sanctions,” Far Eastern Economic Review, November 6, 2003; and author’s interview
with State Department official, November 2003.
After the PRC promised not to start new nuclear cooperation with Iran on the eve of the 1997
U.S.-China summit, President Clinton, on January 12, 1998, signed certifications (as required by
P.L. 99-183) on China’s nuclear nonproliferation policy and practices to implement the 1985
Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. According to President Clinton, the agreement would serve U.S.
national security, environmental, and economic interests, and “the United States and China share
a strong interest in stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction and other sophisticated
weaponry in unstable regions and rogue states—notably, Iran.” The President also waived a
sanction imposed after the Tiananmen crackdown (in P.L. 101-246). Later, at the 1998 summit,
the Department of Energy (DOE) and the PRC State Planning Commission signed an agreement
on peaceful nuclear cooperation, including bringing PRC scientists to U.S. national labs,
universities, and nuclear facilities.
On February 28, 2005, Westinghouse submitted a bid to sell four AP1000 nuclear power reactors
to China, with the NRC’s approval. The Bush Administration supported Westinghouse’s bid to
sell nuclear reactors to China. However, critics said that the United States, including its Export-
Import Bank, should not support nuclear exports to China, given proliferation concerns. On June
Export Financing, and Relations Programs Appropriations Act for FY2006 (H.R. 3057) to
prohibit funds from being used by the Export-Import Bank to approve an application for a loan or
loan guarantee for a nuclear project in the PRC. The House adopted the amendment (313-114)
and passed H.R. 3057 on June 28, 2005, with the language in Section 589. However, this section
was dropped in the conference committee (H.Rept. 109-265). While in Beijing on December 16,
2006, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman signed a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding
that granted the deal to Westinghouse. (See CRS Report RL33192, U.S.-China Nuclear
Cooperation Agreement, by Shirley A. Kan and Mark Holt.)
While sanctions may affect U.S. exports, some policy steps may affect imports of products
produced by PRC military or defense-industrial companies suspected of contributing to
proliferation. Import controls have been included as possible sanctions for missile proliferation
under Section 73(a)(2)(C) of the AECA and Section 11B(b)(1)(B)(iii) of the EAA, as well as
affected by what is popularly called the “Helms Amendment,” giving a broad definition of
“person” as a target of sanctions. Issues include whether to sanction imports and what the
parameters should be.
Export controls are a possible policy tool, because U.S. technology provides one source of
leverage with respect to Beijing. After the Cold War, U.S. export restrictions have been re-
focused to the threat of WMD and missiles. Some in Congress are concerned about U.S.
technology reaching hostile states with WMD programs through China. U.S. arms sales to China
have been banned under sanctions imposed after the 1989 Tiananmen Crackdown (in the Foreign
Relations Authorization Act for FY1990-1991, P.L. 101-246), but there are competing economic
interests in exporting dual-use technology.
Another policy approach is to strengthen the international nonproliferation regimes. There are
two prongs in such efforts: (1) encouraging PRC support for strengthening the regimes (e.g., the
IAEA’s verification authority) to enforce compliance and (2) filling gaps in China’s participation.
Some say that efforts to include China would capitalize on its desire to be treated as a “great
power” and to be perceived as a responsible world leader. In addition, they stress that China
would be more cooperative if it helped to draw up the “rules.” Others argue that China’s
participation would risk its obstruction of tighter export controls, possible derailing of arms
control efforts, linkage of nonproliferation issues to the Taiwan issue, and access to intelligence-
sharing. One basis for this view is the experience with the Arms Control in the Middle East effort
in the early 1990s, in which China refused to cover missiles in the effort and later suspended its
participation after President George H.W. Bush decided in 1992 to sell Taiwan F-16 fighters.
Options for U.S. policy have included support or opposition to China joining the MTCR (as a
member after it establishes a record of compliance and effective export controls), Nuclear
Suppliers Group (NSG), Australia Group (on chemical and biological weapons), Wassenaar
Arrangement (military and dual-use export controls), and International Code of Conduct Against
Ballistic Missile Proliferation. Previously, President Clinton’s National Security Council, in a
purported Secret memo, dated March 12, 1998 (printed in the March 23, 1998 Washington Times),
proposed in a “China missile deal” to expand space cooperation with Beijing, increase the
number of satellites that China can launch, issue a blanket Presidential waiver of post-Tiananmen
sanctions on satellite launches, and support China’s membership in the MTCR—in return for
effective PRC missile export controls.
Critics say that membership in the MTCR would exempt China from certain sanctions, provide it
with intelligence, give it a potentially obstructionist role in decision-making, and relax missile-
related export controls to China. In September 1999, Congress passed the FY2000 National
Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 106-65), stating its sense that the President shall take steps to
obtain an agreement with the PRC on adherence to the MTCR and its annex and that the PRC
should not be allowed to join the MTCR without meeting certain conditions. It also required a
report on the PRC’s adherence to the MTCR. The classified report was submitted on August 18,
2000. In 2004, China applied to join the MTCR but was not accepted as a member, according to
the DNI’s “Section 721 report” to Congress of 2006.
China joined the Zangger Committee (on nuclear trade) in October 1997, before a summit in
Washington. Also, China issued new export control regulations on dual-use nuclear items on June
For years, China was the only major nuclear supplier to shun the multinational NSG, which
requires “full-scope safeguards” (IAEA inspections of all other declared nuclear facilities in
addition to the facility importing supplies to prevent diversions to weapon programs). In January
2004, China applied to join the NSG. However, on May 5, 2004, China signed a contract to build
a second nuclear power reactor (Chashma-2) in Pakistan. This contract raised questions because
of continuing PRC nuclear cooperation with Pakistan and its signing right before a decision by
the NSG on China’s membership. With a pre-existing contract, Chashma-2 would be exempted
from the NSG’s requirement for full-scope safeguards.92 The Bush Administration decided to
support China’s membership, after reportedly strident debate between officials who questioned
China’s commitment to nonproliferation and those who wanted to encourage China’s further 93
On May 18, 2004, the House International Relations Committee held a hearing to question
whether the Administration should support China’s membership in the NSG, given concerns about
PRC nuclear cooperation with Pakistan and Iran, about whether China would be a spoiler in the
NSG, and about loss of U.S. leverage. Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf testified that the
United States has urged China to join the NSG since 1995, that China has not been a spoiler in the
Zangger Committee, and that NSG membership would add multilateral influence on China’s
nuclear technology export policies. Wolf conceded, however, that Pakistan has a nuclear weapons
program and does not accept full-scope safeguards, and that the United States prefers that no
country provide Pakistan with benefits of peaceful nuclear cooperation. He noted that the
Chashma-2 plant will be under IAEA safeguards, but the NSG exempts full-scope safeguards for
contracts signed before NSG membership. Wolf also acknowledged that the Administration did
not request that China use its influence with Islamabad to secure tighter Pakistani export controls.
Moreover, he conceded that the Administration has not seen the contract for Chashma-2 nor
received the requested “full information” on any ongoing nuclear cooperation projects that China
seeks to grandfather. A memo dated May 26, 2004, by the Project for the New American Century
criticized the Administration’s decision for turning a “blind eye to China’s reactor sales to
Pakistan.” The NSG decided at a meeting on May 28 to accept China as a member.
China, on July 30, 1996, began a moratorium on nuclear testing and signed the CTBT on
September 24, 1996. However, after the U.S. Senate rejected (51-48) the treaty on October 13,
1999, it became doubtful that the PRC would ratify the CTBT. Also, the United States has sought
PRC cooperation on negotiating a global ban on the production of fissile materials for nuclear
weapons and other nuclear explosive devices. On October 4, 1994, the United States and China
agreed to “work together to promote the earliest possible achievement of a multilateral, non-
discriminatory, and effective verifiable convention” banning fissile materials production.
Congress might seek to link U.S. support for loans made by international financial institutions to
China’s nonproliferation record. The Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act requires U.S.
opposition to multilateral loans for sanctioned countries (Section 1605(b)(2)). Coordination with
Japan would be appropriate, since it provides the most significant bilateral aid to China and, in
some in Congress increasingly questioned the World Bank’s continued lending to China despite 94
the government’s wealth of funds. The World Bank extended $1 billion in total loans to China in
the bank’s fiscal year of 2005.
92 “Pakistan, China Agree on Second Chashma Unit,” Nucleonics Week, May 6, 2004.
93 Carol Giacomo, “U.S. Backs China Joining Nuclear Group,” Reuters, May 11, 2004.
94 William McQuillen, “World Bank Loans to China Draw Criticism from U.S. Congressmen,” Bloomberg, August 4,
2005; and discussions in Beijing by the author and other congressional staffers in a delegation that visited the PRC in
Table 1. PRC Entities Sanctioned for Weapons Proliferation
Entity/Person Reason: Statutes Effective Dates
- China Great Wall Industry Corporation Missile Proliferation: June 25, 1991
- China Precision Machinery Import/Export Corp. §73(a)(2)(A), Arms Export Control Act waived on
(CPMIEC) §11B(b)(1)(B)(i), Export Administration Act March 23, 1992
(Category II items in MTCR Annex to Pakistan)
Ministry of Aerospace Industry, including CPMIEC, Missile Proliferation: August 24, 1993
and related entities, including: §73(a)(2)(A), Arms Export Control Act waived on
- China National Space Administration §11B(b)(1)(B)(i), Export Administration Act Nov. 1, 1994
- China Aerospace Corp. (Category II items in MTCR Annex to Pakistan)
- Aviation Industries of China
g/w- China Great Wall Industry Corp. or Group
s.or- Chinese Academy of Space Technology
leak- Beijing Wan Yuan Industry Corp. (aka Wanyuan
://wikiCompany or China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology)
http- China Haiying Company
- Shanghai Astronautics Industry Bureau
- China Chang Feng Group (aka China Changfeng
Entity/Person Reason: Statutes Effective Dates
5 PRC citizens: CW Proliferation: May 21, 1997
- Liao Minglong §81(c), Arms Export Control Act remain in effect
- Tian Yi §11C(c), Export Administration Act
- Chen Qingchang (aka Q.C. Chen) (dual-use chemical precursors, equipment, and/or
- Pan Yongming technology to Iran)
- Shao Xingsheng
2 PRC companies:
- Nanjing Chemical Industries Group
- Jiangsu Yongli Chemical Engineering and Technology
1 Hong Kong company:
- Cheong Yee Ltd.
iki/CRS-RL31555Jiangsu Yongli Chemicals and Technology Import/Export CW/BW Proliferation: June 14, 2001
s.or§3, Iran Nonproliferation Act for two years
leakChina Metallurgical Equipment Corp. (aka CMEC, Missile Proliferation: Sept. 1, 2001
://wikiMECC) §73(a)(2)(A), Arms Export Control Act for two years
http§11B(b)(1)(B)(i), Export Administration Act
(MTCR Category II items to Pakistan)
- Liyang Chemical Equipment CW/BW Proliferation: Jan. 16, 2002
- China Machinery and Electric Equipment §3, Iran Nonproliferation Act for two years
Import/Export Co. (Australia Group controls)
- Q.C. Chen
Entity/Person Reason: Statutes Effective Dates
- Liyang Yunlong (aka Liyang Chemical Equipment Co.) Weapons Proliferation: May 9, 2002
- Zibo Chemical Equipment Plant (aka Chemet Global §3, Iran Nonproliferation Act for two years
Ltd.) (AG-controlled items and conventional weapons-related
- China National Machinery and Electric Equipment technology related to unspecified missiles)
Import and Export Co.
- Wha Cheong Tai Co.
- China Shipbuilding Trading Co.
- China Aero-Technology Import/ Export Corp.
- Q.C. Chen
- Jiangsu Yongli Chemicals and Technology Import Weapons Proliferation: July 9, 2002
Export Corp. §1604(b), Iran-Iraq Arms Non-Proliferation Act for two years
iki/CRS-RL31555- Q.C. Chen
s.or- China Machinery and Equipment Import Export Corp. §81(c), Arms Export Control Act for one year
leak- China National Machinery and Equipment Import
Export Corp. §11C(c), Export Administration Act
://wiki- CMEC Machinery and Electric Equipment Import (chemical weapons technology to Iran)
- CMEC Machinery and Electrical Import Export Co.
- China Machinery and Electric Equipment Import Export
- Wha Cheong Tai Co.
- China Shipbuilding Trading Co. only under Iran-Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act
(cruise missile technology)
Entity/Person Reason: Statutes Effective Dates
North China Industries Corporation (NORINCO) Missile Proliferation: May 23, 2003
Executive Order 12938 (amended by Executive Order for two years
(missile technology to Iran)
- Taian Foreign Trade General Corporation Missile Proliferation: June 26, 2003
- Zibo Chemical Equipment Plant §3, Iran Nonproliferation Act for two years
- Liyang Yunlong Chemical Equipment Group Company
CPMIEC Missile Proliferation: July 30, 2003
Executive Order 12938 (as amended by Executive for indefinite period
iki/CRS-RL31555(missile technology to publicly unnamed country)
g/wNORINCO Missile Proliferation: September 19, 2003
leak§73(a)(2)(A) and (C), Arms Export Control Act for two years; waived for one year on import ban for
non-NORINCO products; waiver extended on
://wiki§11B(b)(1)(B)(i) and (iii), Export Administration Act September 18, 2004, for six months; waived for six months on March 18, 2005; waived for six months on
http(Substantial contribution in proliferation of MTCR Category II technology to publicly unnamed country) September 18, 2005; waived for six months on March
18, 2006; waived on September 18, 2006, for six
months; permanently waived on March 18, 2007.
- Beijing Institute of Opto-Electronic Technology Weapons Proliferation: April 1, 2004
(BIOET) §3, Iran Nonproliferation Act for two years
- NORINCO (unspecified transfers to Iran controlled under
- CPMIEC multilateral export control lists or having the potential
- Oriental Scientific Instruments Corporation (OSIC) to make a material contribution to WMD or cruise or ballistic missiles)
- Zibo Chemical Equipment Plant (aka Chemet Global
Ltd., South Industries Science and Technology Trading
Entity/Person Reason: Statutes Effective Dates
- Xinshidai (aka China Xinshidai Company, XSD, China Missile proliferation: September 20, 2004
New Era Group, or New Era Group) Executive Order 12938 (as amended by Executive for two years
(material contribution to missile proliferation in publicly
- Beijing Institute of Aerodynamics Weapons Proliferation: September 23, 2004
- BIOET §3, Iran Nonproliferation Act for two years
- China Great Wall Industry Corporation (unspecified transfers to Iran controlled under
- NORINCO multilateral export control lists or having the potential to make a material contribution to WMD or cruise or
- LIMMT Economic and Trade Company, Ltd. ballistic missiles)
- South Industries Science and Technology Trading Co.
iki/CRS-RL31555- Liaoning Jiayi Metals and Minerals Co. Weapons Proliferation: November 24, 2004
g/w- Q.C. Chen §3, Iran Nonproliferation Act for two years
leak- Wha Cheong Tai Co. Ltd. (unspecified transfers to Iran controlled under
multilateral export control lists or having the potential
://wiki- Shanghai Triple International Ltd. to make a material contribution to WMD or cruise or ballistic missiles)
- Beijing Alite Technologies Company Ltd. Weapons Proliferation: December 27, 2004
- CATIC §3, Iran Nonproliferation Act for two years
- China Great Wall Industry Corporation (unspecified transfers to Iran controlled under
- NORINCO multilateral export control lists or having the potential to make a material contribution to WMD or cruise or
- Q.C. Chen ballistic missiles)
- Wha Cheong Tai Company (aka Wah Cheong Tai Co.,
Hua Chang Tai Co.)
- Zibo Chemet Equipment Corp. (aka Chemet Global
Entity/Person Reason: Statutes Effective Dates
-CATIC Missile and CW Proliferation: December 23, 2005
-NORINCO §3, Iran Nonproliferation Act for two years
-Hongdu Aviation Industry Group (unspecified transfers to Iran controlled under
-LIMMT Metallurgy and Minerals Company Ltd. multilateral export control lists or having the potential to make a material contribution to WMD or cruise or
-Ounion (Asia) International Economic and Technical ballistic missiles)
-Zibo Chemet Equipment Company
-Beijing Alite Technologies Company Ltd. (ALCO) Missile Proliferation: June 13, 2006
-LIMMT Economic and Trade Company Ltd. Executive Order 13382 On June 19, 2008, sanctions lifted against CGWIC and
-China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) (transfers to Iran’s military and other organizations of G.W. Aerospace
-CPMIEC missile and dual-use components, including items controlled by the MTCR)
-G.W. Aerospace (a U.S. office of CGWIC)
g/wGreat Wall Airlines (aka Changcheng Hangkong) Missile Proliferation: August 15, 2006
s.or Executive Order 13382 until December 12, 2006
leak(unspecified transfers probably to Iran)
://wiki-China National Electronic Import-Export Company Weapons Proliferation: December 28, 2006
http-CATIC §3, Iran and Syria Nonproliferation Act for two years
-Zibo Chemet Equipment Company (unspecified transfers to Iran controlled under
multilateral export control lists or having the potential
to make a material contribution to WMD or cruise or
-CPMIEC Weapons Proliferation: April 17, 2007
-Shanghai Non-Ferrous Metals Pudong Development §3, Iran and Syria Nonproliferation Act for two years
Trade Company Ltd. (unspecified transfers to Iran controlled under
-Zibo Chemet Equipment Company multilateral export control lists or having the potential
to make a material contribution to WMD or cruise or
Entity/Person Reason: Statutes Effective Dates
-China Xinshidai Company Weapons Nonproliferation: October 23, 2008
-China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act for two years
Corporation (unspecified transfers controlled under multilateral
-Huazhong CNC export control lists or having the potential to make a
material contribution to WMD or cruise or ballistic
Note: This table summarizes the discussion of sanctions in this CRS Report and was compiled based on publication of notices in the Federal Register, reports and
statements of the Administration, legislation enacted by Congress, and news reports.
Shirley A. Kan
Specialist in Asian Security Affairs