UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

USIS Washington 

10 April 1998


(China "indispensable" to U.S. nonproliferation efforts) (5180)
Washington -- China's cooperation is "indispensable" if the United
States is to reach its nonproliferation goals of reining in missiles
and weapons of mass destruction, says John Holum, director of the Arms
Control and Disarmament Agency and acting under secretary of arms
control and international security affairs.
Holum briefed reporters at the State Department April 9 on the issues
he discussed with Chinese officials during his recent trip to China.
"China possesses all of the relevant technologies that we're concerned
about," Holum said. "China can either be a part of the solution, or it
will certainly be a part of the problem. We have a very high stake,
therefore, in bringing China into the community of countries who work
at controlling these technologies. The problem simply can't be solved
without China."
China has made "enormous progress" in its nonproliferation efforts,
according to Holum. In 1992, China signed the Nonproliferation Treaty;
and in 1996 it agreed to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. China has
agreed not to assist unsafeguarded nuclear facilities anywhere in the
world and is in the process of adopting export control regulations on
nuclear and dual use commodities of concern, he said.
China needs to do more, however, in the chemical weapons and missile
areas, Holum said.
Holum said that his most recent visit with Chinese officials sought to
advance "what we see as common goals" -- the focus being on
strengthening China's controls on missile technology.
Although China agreed in 1994 to abide by the guidelines of the
Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the United States would like
to see it become a full member, he said.
Holum acknowledged that it might be "some time" before the Chinese
will be interested in making such a move. "At the same time, it is
reasonable for us to focus on enlisting China in a comparable level of
controls" as it might observe as a full MTCR member, he said.
If China agrees to tighten its missile technology controls, Holum
said, the United States would be prepared to increase its cooperation
in space launches. For example, the United States would allow more
U.S. satellites to be launched on Chinese boosters.
Holum explained that the launch program started in 1989 but was
suspended because of the Tiananmen Square massacre of pro-democracy
demonstrators. The program was resumed in 1992 and a number of
launches have taken place. "We're willing to expand the number to
increase cooperation," Holum said. The increase, he said, "would be a
value to China."
Holum emphasized, however, that the United States has no plans to
offer missile technology to China.
Holum discounted the belief in some quarters that anything that the
United States might sell or transfer to China that would be licensed
under the MTCR would inevitably transfer missile technology to China.
"If we agree that a U.S. company can launch a satellite on a Chinese
rocket, that requires an export license," Holum explained. "But
whenever that's done, it's done under a strict technology security
plan so that no technology related to that satellite is transferred to
If China were a MTCR member, however, licensing could be expedited,
but China would not attain any missile technology as a result of the
license, he said.
Holum declined to describe the Chinese response to the U.S. proposal,
but said he looks forward to working with the Chinese on this issue.
Following is the official transcript of the briefing:
(begin transcript)
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release        April 9, 1998
Washington, D.C.
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: This I probably not a propitious moment
to come here when you all, as I understand, haven't had lunch yet. So
I assume you're not in a good mood, but I'll proceed anyway.
I'd like to open with just three general points. The focus today is on
my recent trip to China and some of the discussions that we had there.
The first point is that nonproliferation of weapons of mass
destruction and missiles is central to our national security strategy.
I think there is no higher priority on the President's agenda, on that
of the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Defense and others than
to impede the flow of dangerous technologies around the world and to
prevent the acquisition of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons or
missiles by more countries. That means both strengthening the global
regimes -- the treaties and supplier regimes that constrain those
technologies. Also it means detailed, day-by-day enforcement on the
ground, and we're very active in both areas.
The second point is that China is indispensable to those efforts.
China possesses all of the relevant technologies that we're concerned
about. China can either be a part of the solution, or it will
certainly be a part of the problem. We have a very high stake,
therefore, in bringing China into the community of countries who work
at controlling these technologies. The problem simply can't be solved
without China.
A third point is that China has made enormous progress in this area.
If you take a long view, we don't have to look back very far to a time
when China actually advocated proliferation -- suggested that having
more countries have nuclear weapons would be a good thing. In 1992,
China joined the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It has joined us in
negotiating the Chemical Weapons Convention and completed and is an
original party to that. In 1996 China stopped testing and agreed to
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
If you look at a shorter time frame, we have also been making steady
and positive progress in the nuclear area, in particular. In 1996,
China agreed that it would not assist unsafeguarded nuclear facilities
anywhere in the world. It is in the process of adopting export control
regulations on nuclear and dual use commodities that are of concern in
the nuclear area. It has joined the export control group that operates
under the rubric of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, called the
Zangger Committee. It has undertaken to provide no new nuclear
cooperation with Iran, and is in the process of terminating a couple
of rather small existing projects in Iran.
Now, obviously a great deal more needs to be done, especially in the
chemical weapons and missile areas. My trip the week before lastwas in
that context -- to continue the effort to work with China, to try to
advance what we see as common goals in preventing the proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction. We put some additional ideas on the table
and are looking forward to further work. With that, let me invite your
Q: Have you determined if the missile that Pakistan tested, I guess
this week, had anything to do with any Chinese input of technology?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: We're aware, of course, as you are, that
in the past China has assisted missile programs in Pakistan. At the
same time, it's true that Pakistan has sought assistance from a number
of sources for its missile programs; and you should not assume that in
this case the technology originated in China. It's a matter that we
are, in fact, actively reviewing.
Q:  But you're not ruling it out?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: Let me just say that we're reviewing it.
But you shouldn't assume that it originated in China.
Q:  How quickly will you have a conclusion on that?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM:  It shouldn't be too long.
Q: Can you say with certainty that the test actually took place?
Indian authorities were trying to say, yesterday I believe, that they
had not detected that the test had been done and so therefore it
hadn't been done.
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: No, in fact, Pakistan has itself
announced -- I mean, yes. Pakistan has itself announced that the test
took place and our information confirms that it was a test of a 1,500
kilometer range missile that Pakistan calls the Ghauri.
Q: Have you touched on -- I'm sorry I'm late -- but have you touched
on the implications for the Test Ban Treaty of the Pakistan missile
test? Isn't this likely to make India even more skittish? And of
course, Pakistan doesn't move until India moves, so where are you
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: I would think in the context of the Test
Ban Treaty, this is not a major impact one way or the other. I think
the problems are larger than this and probably this would be lost in
the clutter.
Q:  Do you consider that the -- is this menacing to India?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: This is not a deployment decision; it's
a test. But I think any step, particularly in the current environment,
by either country that advances toward deployments of missiles or
articulation of a nuclear capability should be avoided. India is in
the process of setting up a new government and refining its policies
in this area, and we think both countries should avoid actions that
could be interpreted as provocative.
Q: Could I follow that up? For years this country and most of the NATO
countries followed the assumption that the only adequate deterrent to
missile attacks would be to have a counter-missile threat. Why doesn't
that logic work in South Asia?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: In theory, it would. However, the better
answer, as we know from our own experience -- and others should
understand, watching our experience -- that the likelihood, if you
start down that path, is a missile race in which both sides deploy
more missiles because you never have what you can confidently decide
is enough.
There is a particular difficulty in the sub-continent that was less
the case with us, and that is that distances are very short. Between
the United States and the former Soviet Union, for example, there
would have been, even with missiles, a half hour's worth, roughly, of
warning time. If distances are much shorter, then the warning time
shrinks dramatically, and you're in a situation where sides might
launch, thinking they are under attack. So, the likelihood or the
ability or the prospect for constraining these forces once they're
deployed is limited. That's why we're paying so much attention to this
Q:  There's a higher risk of an accidental exchange?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: A higher risk of an unintended exchange,
Q: Apropos of the discussion we all had with you the other day on
CTBT, Helms' aids are insisting that his position is firm, that he
wants the Administration to submit the ABM protocols and the Kyoto
Agreement before he'll move on CTBT. So it looks like, at least on
paper, looks like an impasse. How are you going to get around this?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: We'll continue to work on it. Obviously,
I don't want to engage in a long-distance negotiation with Senator
Helms or his staff. We think it's very important for the United States
to take a leadership role on the Test Ban Treaty, and we'll continue
trying to make that case both publicly and directly with Senator
Remember that once Russia ratifies START II, it's our intention to
submit the demarcation and succession agreements to the Senate. We
have made clear we plan to do that along with the START II protocols.
Q: You don't expect Russia to do the START II until the summer, at the
earliest, right?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM:  The sooner the better.
Q: So, the earliest you could send up the ABM is end of the summer,
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: Well, we'll be ready to send up that
treaty quite quickly and promptly after the Russians act on START II.
Q: Helms had a chance, after the news conference, to re-read his
letter to Clinton, and I wouldn't put you in a position asking you
whether you think he's right that it's the Committee and not the White
House that should set the order of priorities for the Committee. But,
he does say, what's the big deal about the Test Ban Treaty. I mean,
it's going to take years before it really takes effect, and NATO
expansion's a big deal, so are the things Carol referred to; in good
time -- I don't even know if he said "in good time," actually. But the
inference is there's nothing pressing about this. Is he wrong?
Considering how far you've got to go to -- excuse me, it's your shot.
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: We believe there is an urgency about the
treaty. As I laid out the other day, this is one of the elements in
our nonproliferation strategy, and as I said a few minutes ago, we
have no higher priority. I don't think anybody in either party
disagrees with that. We need to get a handle on these technologies.
The Test Ban helps us in two respects. One is that it's a big obstacle
for any aspiring new nuclear weapons acquirer because it's very hard,
without tests, to develop nuclear weapons or advanced designs. But in
addition to that, this is part of our credibility; this is part of our
tool chest as we go out and try to deal with the transfers of
dangerous technologies. We need to be fully credible and fully
supportive and fully involved, in fact in the lead of the
international non-proliferation effort. The Test Ban is the central
part of that. It's very hard for us to go out and press others to
limit exports or to join treaties if we're not a part of the leading
current treaty on the agenda.
Q: John, going back to China for a second, when it was reported last
month that there were talks between Chinese officials and Iranian
officials about a precursor for uranium enrichment, a lot of people on
the Hill said this is a sign that China has not changed its ways and
it's up to its old tricks. The argument from the Administration was
that since China eventually stopped that deal, that this was a sign of
good things. Have you really noticed a difference from their
negotiating posture and positions from this latest trip? Have they
really changed? And if so, what can we expect to see out of the summit
in terms of missiles and bio?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: Well, first on the summit, I'd hesitate
to expect a whole lot; this summit comes very closely after the
October summit. These are hard issues that we expect a long engagement
with China on, and it would be great to have immediate results form my
trip and Bob Einhorn's trip, but I think it'll take some time before
we have a tangible outcome.
On the question of the chemical transfer, let me say a couple of
things. I think that's a very important issue and deserves to be put
in context. The first thing is that -- and I won't belabor this -- but
leaks like that really do undercut our diplomatic efforts. Sources dry
up, our credibility is undermined, it looks like we're playing to the
crowd, others assume that the information is leaked deliberately. I
know you will print what you get, and I'm not arguing that you
shouldn't; but it is very costly to us.
That said, what you saw here was a snap shot of how most
nonproliferation efforts are conducted. We have groups of experts all
over town that gather routinely and sift through the intelligence to
look for evidence that the wrong things are going to a bad
destination. They know the technology, they follow all the sources of
technology flow into these places. When they find something that looks
troublesome, if we have conclusive evidence, we make a demarche -- we
go in and say, stop this shipment, intercept it in port somewhere.
Most often what we have is inconclusive evidence; we have indications
that somebody somewhere is talking to somebody somewhere else and what
the topic is. And in those cases, we go in and we raise questions, and
that's what happened here.
This wasn't an indication that the government of China was negotiating
with the government of Iran over this chemical. There were indications
of communications that took place at much lower levels -- preliminary
communications, so we raised a question. We do that routinely and
constantly; this isn't a big event in the scheme of things. It happens
continuously, and it happens with good friends and allies -- as well
as with China, Russia and others. And in this case, we brought this
information to the attention of the Chinese; they looked into it and
said nothing has happened, nothing will happen. Everything we've seen
since then confirms that.
Now, would they have gone ahead with this transaction if we hadn't
intervened? No way to know. But the argument is just as strong that
this would have never been approved under their new export control
guidelines. And it's a very encouraging thing in my mind that when we
go ask them a question, they don't just say, no, we comply with our
nonproliferation obligations; they say, we'll look into it; they look
into it and they solve the problem. I think that's a big step forward.
So what concerns me about some of the reporting about this is that you
can describe the state of play with China on nonproliferation and
export controls as being a glass half-full or a glass half-empty. But
it looks like somebody's trying to drain the glass. There is water
here, and we're making considerable progress.
Q: This isn't a case of a cheat-and-retreat sort of policy that is
continuing, where they step back once we find something; but other
than that, they're still keeping up these --
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: If that were the case, I think we'd have
more indications. The fact of the matter is that in connection --
going back to 1996, in May 1996, they made the commitment not to
support or assist unsafeguarded nuclear facilities. We have no reason
to believe they're out of compliance with that undertaking, going back
that far. We've watched this very closely.
Q: On the same China issue, you talked about additional ideas that you
had brought to China. Can you be specific about what those were?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: Well, as I said, a principal area that
we wanted to discuss was missile proliferation. I won't get into the
specific exchanges of what we said and what they said, but I'll talk
about what our objectives were and are. We are very interested in
having China strengthen their controls on missile technology.
As that happens, as you've seen in the case of the nuclear cooperation
agreement, we would be prepared to increase our cooperation in space
launches -- increase the number, for example of space launches of US
satellites that could be launched using Chinese boosters. Now, that's
been underway for a considerable period of time; it was begun in 1989
and it was resumed in 1992. There have been a number of those
launches, and we're willing to expand the number to increase
Q:  Can you quantify that?  From what to what -- from ten to 100?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: No, I can't; we haven't really
quantified it specifically in our discussions. But it would be an
increase, and it would be of value to China.
Q:  What did the Chinese say?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: Well, again, I don't -- let me put it
this way. One of the things we proposed was that it would be
worthwhile for China to consider membership in the Missile Technology
Control Regime. That would be a useful step, in our judgment, if they
lived up to all the requirements.
I suspect it will be some time before the Chinese are interested in
joining the Missile Technology Control Regime. At the same time, I
think it is reasonable for us to focus on enlisting China in the same
level or a comparable level of controls of missile technology, as the
MTCR provides.
Let me say in that context, because there has been some confusion here
about the notion that we were going to offer missile technology to
China as part of this trip. I said before I went on the trip that
there was no plan to offer missile technology; and I can tell you
after the trip that I didn't offer missile technology. But there's
apparently some belief that anything that we would sell to China or
transfer to China that would be licensed under the Missile Technology
Control Regime would inevitably transfer missile technology to China.
Let me give you an example of what doesn't -- and it's specifically
what we had in mind, going back to what I said. If we agree that a US
company can launch a satellite on a Chinese rocket, that requires an
export license. But whenever that's done, it's done under a strict
technology security plan so that no technology related to that
satellite is transferred to China or to the target country. So there's
a license required. Consideration could be expedited if China were
part of the Missile Technology Control Regime. But China would not
attain any missile technology as a result of the license.
Q: (Inaudible) -- that space launch, and it failed and
McDonnell-Douglas and Loral did the investigation. There was enough
concern in Justice to launch a criminal investigation, which
apparently was sort of sunk by Mr. Clinton's decision to relax some of
these things. Is there not concern that this -- I mean, if Justice is
concerned enough to launch a criminal investigation whether technology
was transferred there, I mean, are you not concerned?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: Am I concerned that we should not grant
any more licenses? No, I think the program should continue. Am I
concerned about a specific case that happened in the past? Our policy,
our very firm policy and the legal requirement, more than policy, is
to exclude the transfer of sensitive technology as part of these space
launches. That includes a technology security plan; it includes
escorts for the satellite. We specifically preclude assistance to the
design, development, operation, maintenance, modification or repair of
any launch facility or rocket in China. And we monitor that very
Following the February 1996 failure of the Long March Rocket, the
State Department became aware that there may have been a violation.
Our standard practice in cases of that kind is to refer it to the
appropriate investigative authorities, which was done in that case. If
there is a violation, we have strong legal remedies, including the
possibility of denial of future licenses. That matter is in the hands
of the Justice Department, and will be investigated there.
Q: Another point, Justice said that the relaxation of these things by
President Clinton basically made the investigation moot, which
basically says that we have relaxed some of these things as far as
what is allowed under tech transfer. I'm just curious -- there must
have been some relaxation for Justice to back off their investigation
and say, well, now we can't do it; we can't go through.
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: I think you ought to talk further with
Justice about that. I don't want to get involved in commenting on
their investigation. But I don't understand that to be the case.
Q: Taking advantage of your presence, making it proliferating
questions about arms control, have you either had a chance to look at
the Union of Concerned Scientists report a couple of weeks ago on
North Korea's program? If you haven't or if you have, what is -- you
know what they think. They think it's been exaggerated, that they
haven't tested one and the other has tested half-range.
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM:  You mean the missile program?
Q: The two -- yes, the mark up that was spotted. I was just curious if
the State Department or arms controllers like you have another view of
the threat?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: Well, I basically would say -- and I
haven't read the report in detail, I've seen reports on the report.
Since I read them in the press, I assume they're accurate.
Q:  Oh, sure.
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: I think it all goes to timing. I mean,
there is no question but what North Korea is actively pursuing missile
programs and missiles of increasing capability -- longer-range
missiles and Scud and other technologies, more advanced technologies.
That's one concern. Another concern, of course, is that North Korea
has historically been an exporter of these technologies. A lot of the
countries in the Middle East who have Scuds got them there.
Those two conditions being juxtaposed makes me very concerned that
this is something we have to deal with. If the Union of Concerned
Scientists is correct and this problem is further off, so much the
better. But I take it seriously, and I'm not going to wait around to
see if it actually evolves. I think we need to address it quickly.
Q: (Inaudible) -- think basically one researcher up at MIT who wrote
the report came down here and talked to some of us about it. He has a
proposal, he has a proposition. He says it could be very serious. But
right now, he sees sort of a slow-down, lack of movement and thinks
this is an opportunity for US to jump in -- and others, too -- to
speak of technology swaps, to give them things, to trade them off to
try to just freeze -- kind of restrain or curb the program before it
really gets going.
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: Well, we have, in fact, discussed
missile -- without going into the content, we have discussed the
missile issue with the North Koreans --
Q:  Not lately.
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: -- as part of our effort. But the
unwillingness has been on their side to engage in continued work on
this issue.
Q: Yes, because he sort of said there were, I think, two rounds of
talks, but, he said, then it stopped -- sort of implying, you both
ought to get with it.
Q: Going back to the MTCR issue, I think you proposed for China
joining this regime. But I think in '94, Qian Qichan and Secretary
Christopher already agreed to abide by guidelines of MTCR. But after
that I heard that lots of modifications, annexes. What is China agreed
to at this moment? They already agreed to abide by the guidelines, and
to what certain degree they abide by this regime?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: China, in October 1994, after sanctions
had been imposed in 1993, had further discussions and agreed to follow
the principles of the Missile Technology Control Regime. That was
important in two respects. One fairly arcane area is that they agreed
to abide by the principal of inherent capacity -- and remember the
Missile Technology Control Regime covers payloads of 500 kilograms
carried 300 kilometers. Inherent capability would be if something had
a higher weight it might not go as far, but it would still have the
inherent capability to meet those parameters. So they agreed to that
principle and that resolved some prior disputes.
In addition, they agreed, in fact, going beyond the MTCR guidelines,
that they would not sell MTCR class ground-to-ground missiles anywhere
in the world. Now, our indications are that we have no reason to
believe they have violated those specific commitments. At the same
time, their relationships in missile components and technology with
Iran and Pakistan, in particular, lead us to be concerned about
whether they have the same understanding we have about the specific
scope of those undertakings. That's one of the reasons why we want to
continue this engagement -- to flesh out the specific details and the
control mechanisms to make sure that those technologies don't
Q: In other words, it's your understanding that China already agreed
to the Category II missiles -- to not export the Category II type?
Q:  In the MTCR.
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: Well, Category II and Category I cover
the same categories of missiles; it's just different kinds of
technology -- different levels of technology. The concern is whether
their specific undertaking was, in general terms, to abide by the MTCR
limitations; and in specific terms, to do the two things that I
referred to. And the difficulty we have is in the details. What we're
trying to reconcile is our approach and their approach to actually
controlling technology and components, which would generally fall
under Category II. Category I deals with full up missiles and major
Q: You wrote a letter urging better compliance between DOD and the
State Department in regards to high-tech weapons. Have you gotten any
type of cooperative agreement with them? Are you able to get a heads
up on what's going on when they're developing these high-tech weapons?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: First of all, let me say that there is a
process in place by which we are notified and have a chance to discuss
their determinations generally on compliance review. There have been
some press reports that make this look like a major confrontation.
What we've been looking at is ways to improve that -- not to put the
State Department or Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in the middle
of the Department of Defense's compliance review group or there
procurement decisions, but to see if we can't coordinate things better
once their decisions are made; and we're continuing those discussions.
Q: So what you're looking for is better dialogue? You were saying you
already have the communication with them, you're just looking for
better dialogue, or --
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: We just see some ways that the system
could be improved and we're talking about it.
Q:  Was that an authentic letter?
Q:  The letter that was discussed in the news article was authentic?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: I didn't say that; I just said that
we're engaging in a dialogue.
Q: In terms of nuclear safety control ideas, do you have any
indication from the Chinese that they are interested in at least
exchange of views or something?
ACTING UNDER SECRETARY HOLUM: On nuclear safety in particular? Weapons
or more generally? Both?
I haven't directly or personally been engaged in discussions of
nuclear safety, but the dialogue is broadening. We've covered a whole
range of subjects and there was an expert's dialogue before I arrived
and we're continuing to engage in a whole range of areas, so that's
not out of the question.
Thank you.
(end transcript)

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list