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U.S., China Continue Missile Proliferation Talks

In the highest-level nonproliferation talks since the Bush administration took office, the United States and China met November 29-30 in Washington to discuss Beijing’s implementation of a November 2000 missile nonproliferation pledge.

A State Department official said that the talks—held between Secretary of State Colin Powell, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, and Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Guangya—were “productive.” A diplomat from the Chinese embassy in Washington added that the meetings included a “deep and frank exchange of views” and “increased mutual understanding” of arms control and proliferation issues. The meeting was the third such session in the past four months.

In the November 2000 agreement, China committed not to help states develop “in any way…ballistic missiles that can be used to deliver nuclear weapons.” In exchange, the Clinton administration waived sanctions on Beijing and pledged to resume processing applications for U.S. companies to launch satellites on Chinese rockets, which had been suspended in February 2000.

Washington has been concerned that China has not faithfully implemented the agreement, leading the Bush administration to impose sanctions in September that triggered a ban for two years on all U.S. sales of electronic and space systems that could be related to ballistic missile development. (See ACT, September 2001.) Application processing cannot resume until those and some additional sanctions are lifted.

To waive the sanctions, resume satellite application processing, and be satisfied that China has faithfully implemented its pledge, the Bush administration wants to see China make progress on a range of issues. In mid-October, days after the previous round of talks concluded, Powell said that the administration wants China to satisfy U.S. concerns over missile-related contracts signed prior to the November 2000 agreement, develop a formal missile-related export control framework, and fulfill other requirements, which remain undisclosed. (See ACT, November 2001.)

A Senate aide familiar with the issue said Chinese missile transfers to Pakistan and Iran have continued since November 2000, describing the transfers as so “blatant” that they are “surely deliberate” and “probably [official] policy.”

U.S.-Chinese talks on the issue will continue in the coming months, but no specific dates have been decided upon yet.