07 January 1998
TRANSCRIPT: ROBERT EINHORN INTERVIEW ON CHINA/NON-PROLIFERATION
(USIA electronic journal "U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda") (2780) (In the following interview, which was published in January in USIA's electronic journal "U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda," Robert J. Einhorn, deputy assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation, says "China realizes that its own interests are served by non-proliferation, and that's why it has, over time, become a more and more responsible player....It still has a long way to go" in some areas, but "we hope to see continuing improvement in China's non-proliferation record." Einhorn was interviewed by journal Contributing Editor Jane Morse.) QUESTION: As a nuclear state and major power in Asia, China is critical to the goal of ending the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. What moves has China made in this regard and what future steps does the United States hope China will take? EINHORN: China, in the past several years, has taken a number of steps to demonstrate its commitment to non-proliferation -- not just non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, but non-proliferation of chemical and biological weapons and missile delivery systems. In 1992, China became a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). And in 1995 it supported making the NPT, which is the centerpiece of global non-proliferation efforts, permanent. It signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1993 and became an original party to the CWC in April of this year. It is also a party to the Biological Weapons Convention. So China, especially during the 1990s, has taken a variety of important steps to support non-proliferation agreements, and it also has cooperated with the United States in supporting non-proliferation goals in various regions of the world. Most importantly, it worked with the United States to promote an effective solution to the North Korean nuclear problem in 1994. In that period, the North Koreans were intending to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We believed they had violated their commitments under the NPT, and we were trying to find a solution. The Chinese were effective behind the scenes in supporting a solution that we eventually reached with the North Koreans bilaterally in October 1994, which resulted in the end of the North Korean nuclear program. Q: How has China's attitude toward various arms control measures changed in the past decade? And in what ways has China become a constructive partner with regard to the arms control priorities of the Clinton administration? EINHORN: China's behavior has changed quite dramatically over the past several decades. During the 1960s, for example, it was the declared policy of China to support nuclear proliferation. The Chinese said that proliferation of nuclear capabilities would, and I quote, "break the hegemony of the superpowers." China has come a long way from the days when it actually favored proliferation. Now, we believe that China is seeing itself more as a major power with important responsibilities. It's a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, it's one of the five nuclear weapons states, and it has come to realize that one of the important attributes of great power status is to abide by international non-proliferation norms. So we think that China is more and more becoming a responsible player. But I have to say that China's evolution is not yet complete. It has made important progress, but in certain areas of proliferation, it is still engaged in activities that are problematic for us. For example, while its nuclear cooperation record with third parties has significantly improved, in the area of missile and chemical proliferation we still see problems. We don't believe that China is adequately controlling the export of dual-use chemical-related items. And some Chinese entities have actually contributed to Iran's chemical weapons program. In the missile area, we see China exporting components and technology which are assisting both Pakistan and Iran in the acquisition of missiles. So China has come a long way in the non-proliferation area and especially in the nuclear non-proliferation area. But it still has a way to go in some of the other areas. Q: What effect do China's military and technology relations with Pakistan and Iran have on U.S. interests? EINHORN: You have to look at the cases separately. We are terribly concerned about the behavior of Iran. It's an opponent of the Middle East peace process, it's a supporter of terrorism, it's seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and it has often taken a hostile attitude toward its neighbors. So we believe that any assistance to Iranian military programs is a mistake and can contribute to instability in the important Gulf region. And we have raised this with Chinese authorities on many occasions. Pakistan, of course, is a friend of the United States, and we wish to have good bilateral relations with Pakistan. We also recognize China is a good friend of Pakistan, and we don't wish to interfere in any way with their close relationship. But we hope that the Chinese will recognize that their relationship with Pakistan needs to conform with international non-proliferation norms and that assisting such activities as Pakistan's missile program could lead to instability in the region and could have a disruptive effect on the efforts of India and Pakistan to work out a rapprochement after 50 years of independence. Q: What steps has China taken in this area with either Pakistan or Iran? EINHORN: China has taken a number of steps. It has adopted a much more restrained and responsible approach to the export of nuclear equipment and technology. In the past, China had actually contributed to Pakistan's unsafeguarded nuclear program. That is to say it contributed to facilities in Pakistan that do not have International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards or inspections. This has been a very unfortunate practice. But the Chinese committed in May 1996 not to provide any assistance to these unsafeguarded nuclear facilities. And we have no reason to conclude that they have violated this undertaking. Also, the Chinese recently assured us -- this was in connection with President Jiang Zemin's visit to Washington in October 1997 -- that they were not going to engage in any new nuclear cooperation with Iran, and that they would complete existing cooperative projects in a relatively short period of time. We think this was a very responsible step. China also has taken steps to improve its policy related to export of chemical-related items. In May of 1997 the United States was compelled under its laws to impose trade sanctions against seven Chinese entities for contributing to Iran's chemical program. After these sanctions, we see evidence that the Chinese have taken steps to adopt more rigorous controls on their companies that export to Iran. So this is positive. They also have taken some steps in the missile proliferation area, but these are more modest. One useful step is agreement to ban the export of any long-range ground-to-ground missiles. And we believe that China has not exported complete ground-to-ground missiles since making that agreement. We're concerned, however, that China continues to provide components and technology to both Pakistan and Iran. Q: You said that China has agreed not to undertake any new arrangements with Iran, but will complete existing projects. How many projects exist and how damaging are they to non-proliferation interests? EINHORN: We asked the Chinese, during the negotiations that preceded President Jiang's visit, to itemize precisely what ongoing projects they were involved in with Iran. They told us there were two existing projects; we evaluated them and they are very minor. We don't believe they raise proliferation concerns, and so we did not have any difficulty with the Chinese completing them in a relatively short period of time. Q: What kinds of assurances has China given us regarding controls of nuclear technology and hardware to implement the 1985 U.S.-China Agreement on Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation? EINHORN: The Chinese have taken a number of steps and provided a number of new assurances which provided justification in our view for President Clinton to go forward on October 29 to indicate that he would provide to the Congress the necessary certifications to bring the 1985 U.S.-China Nuclear Cooperation Agreement fully into force. I'll enumerate quickly what those steps were. One was the May 1996 pledge not to provide assistance to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities. And, as I said, China appears to be taking this commitment very, very seriously. Second, it undertook not to engage in new nuclear cooperation with Iran and to complete existing projects in a short period of time. Third, it adopted a nuclear export control system, a nationwide comprehensive system that it never had before and that, for the first time, will give it the ability to control effectively both nuclear items and dual-use, nuclear-related items that go to foreign countries. And fourth, it was important to us that China participate in multilateral nuclear export control deliberations. And on October 16, China became a member of the NPT Exporters Committee -- the so-called "Zangger Committee," which is a group of supplier states belonging to the NPT. This will help China become fully familiar with the nuclear export control policies and practices of the responsible supplier governments of the world. And I believe it will reinforce China's movement in a responsible direction. Q: Why did it take so long to implement the 1985 U.S.-China Nuclear Cooperation Agreement? How does the agreement benefit China and how does it benefit the United States? EINHORN: After this agreement was negotiated and signed in 1985, we came across information that China was providing assistance to Pakistan's unsafeguarded nuclear program, thereby contributing to Pakistan's nuclear weapons capability. The Congress passed various laws -- some in 1985, and some additional provisions after the Tiananmen massacre in 1989 -- that required the president to make several certifications if the administration wanted to implement this agreement. Because of continuing Chinese assistance to Pakistan's nuclear program, no U.S. president had been able to make the necessary certifications for a long period of time. But this administration, given the priority it attaches to non-proliferation, decided to make an effort to persuade China to alter its behavior and give us the necessary assurances. We've made a major effort for the past two and a half years to persuade the Chinese of the wisdom of this course. And we think on the eve of the recent summit meeting in Washington, we were able to achieve what we needed. We believe there will be substantial benefits for both the United States and China in implementing this agreement. For the United States, an important benefit is the improved non-proliferation behavior we've been able to achieve with China. The agreement is only a framework. It enables U.S. companies to sell to China, but individual transactions have to be approved individually. So if China does not live up to its commitments, we can cut off nuclear trade with China. So having this agreement in place will provide a continuing basis for us to monitor and influence Chinese behavior. That's an important benefit for the United States. Also, U.S. companies will, for the first time, have an opportunity to sell nuclear reactors and nuclear fuel and other nuclear products to China. The Chinese have vast energy plants, including very large nuclear plants. This is a potentially very lucrative market for the nuclear industry. And there could also be important environmental benefits. It's widely understood that nuclear energy is very clean. You don't create the pollutants that are created when you burn fossil fuels. To the extent that China takes advantage of safe, environmentally sound U.S. reactors, this could be an important environmental step as well. So for us, we believe there are substantial benefits. For the Chinese, of course, they get the opportunity to purchase and import the best, safest, most advanced nuclear reactor designs in the world, which are American-designed plans. Q: Are there any estimates about how much money we're talking about, what this means to U.S. industry? What other countries are already selling nuclear technology to China? EINHORN: Right now you have France, Russia, and Canada already agreeing to sell nuclear reactors to China. But so far, China has not had the right to buy American. It's clear that one of the reasons they were prepared to make these new non-proliferation commitments is that they saw real benefit in buying from the United States. How big the market is, what we could expect in the way of U.S. nuclear sales to China -- it's hard to predict. It will be up to the Chinese and to the American companies, as well as their foreign competitors, to determine what kind of a market there will be for American goods. Q: You discussed China's changing behavior with Iran and Pakistan, but are there other countries to which China has sold weapons? EINHORN: Interestingly, China has not been engaged in sales to a vast number of countries in this area. Often you see public comments from various sources suggesting that China is an indiscriminate seller of arms and destabilizing technologies. In fact, China's sales that we have found questionable have been confined to a relatively small number of recipients. We hope that China continues to improve its record and that we don't see any indication that China is selling its arms and technology more broadly. Q: The media has questioned the Chinese government's response that it did not know about certain sales by private companies. The argument is made that there really are no private companies in China, so the Chinese government can't claim it did not know about certain sales to foreign countries. How would you address that? EINHORN: I have followed Chinese behavior in this area very closely for a number of years, and it is entirely plausible to me that there are activities that go on that are not approved and are not even known about by the central government. A case in point was the sale several years ago of ring magnets, relatively unsophisticated pieces of equipment, to Pakistan's uranium enrichment program. The more we looked at this, the more it became very believable that the Chinese entity involved was operating on its own without government oversight. The commercial value of the transfer was something less than $70,000. These were general-purpose goods, but they nonetheless contributed to Pakistan's uranium enrichment program. This is one reason why we have called for the strengthening of China's nuclear related export controls, because we wanted to remedy this kind of problem and to ensure that the governmental authorities have oversight over all exports that could contribute to proliferation. Q: Would you discuss China's interests in the Middle East and how they affect China's non-proliferation efforts? EINHORN: China has a great stake in stability in the Middle East. China has become a net importer of oil. It has growing energy needs; it will need to continue importing oil, including from the Persian Gulf. So it should not want to see instability in the Gulf region. We have had concerns with the Chinese over the sale of conventional anti-ship cruise missiles to Iran. We feel that this anti-ship cruise missile capability could contribute to an Iranian capability to destabilize the region, the ability to threaten shipping in the Gulf. So we have made this a high priority and we've recently seen signs that the Chinese understand our concerns and hopefully will be responsive to them. Q: How would you characterize China's self-interest in complying with non-proliferation issues? EINHORN: I think China's more responsible approach to non-proliferation is a function of its appreciation that its interests are not served by having more countries, including countries neighboring China, acquire these destabilizing capabilities. It no doubt feels strongly that there should not be nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and in other areas near China. I think China realizes that its own interests are served by non-proliferation and that's why it has, over time, become a more and more responsible player. This evolution is not complete; China still has a long way to go in areas such as missile proliferation and chemical proliferation. But the United States will be working with China very closely and gauging China, monitoring Chinese behavior, and where we see deficiencies, we will bring those forcefully to the attention of China's leaders. And we hope to see continuing improvement in China's non-proliferation record.
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