China Sanctioned for Chem, Bio Transfers to Iran

Seth Brugger

On January 16, the United States sanctioned two Chinese companies and an individual for transferring to Iran sensitive equipment and technology used to manufacture chemical and biological weapons.

According to the State Department, the transfers have taken place since January 1999 and involved goods restricted by the Australia Group, an informal body of 33 countries that coordinate their controls on biological and chemical weapons-related exports. The United States last sanctioned a Chinese entity for chemical or biological weapons-related transfers in June 2001, according to an administration official.

Levied under the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 and effective for two years, the latest sanctions prohibit the U.S. government from conducting business with or providing assistance to the Chinese entities: Liyang Chemical Equipment, China Machinery and Electric Import and Export Company, and Q. C. Chen. The sanctions also bar certain weapons and defense-related sales to the entities, as well as sales of goods requiring particular export licenses.

In a January 25 written statement, the State Department said, “For many years we have made known to the Chinese Government our concerns about specific Chinese entities providing assistance to Iran’s chemical weapons program. Q. C. Chen has been among the entities we have raised on multiple occasions.”

Chen is already subject to U.S. sanctions imposed in 1997 for assisting Iran’s chemical weapons program; the other two entities were not already under sanctions. When asked, the State Department could not say whether the United States currently conducts business with the three entities.

The sanctions could have been waived, but Washington “did not believe it was appropriate” to do so, the State Department said in its statement. More information on the nature of the transfers was not publicly available, but the fact that the sanctions were levied about a month before President George W. Bush traveled to China could indicate their seriousness.

China’s Foreign Ministry rebutted the U.S. charges in a January 25 statement, saying the sanctions are “unreasonable” and “should be cancelled,” Agence France-Presse reported. “China is opposed to any country developing chemical weapons, and furthermore does not help any country develop chemical weapons,” the statement said.