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Connecting The Dots On China

Conspicuously absent from all the news about Pakistan’s nuclear bazaar has been any mention of China. The press has been full of stories about Pakistan nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan and the riches he amassed selling technologies and blueprints for making bomb-grade nuclear materials. Khan has admitted dealing with a host of rogue states, but until recently the media would have you believe that the proliferation trail stopped at his door.

But Libya’s recent disclosures about its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs have refocused attention on the role of China in the international WMD market. The Washington Post recently reported that Libyan nuclear-warhead designs obtained from Khan actually originated in China. Joby Warrick and Peter Slavin reported that Libya handed over a set of documents to U.S. officials last November following Moammar Gaddafi’s decision to give up his WMD program.

Upon examination, experts found a nuclear warhead design, which the two reported, “contained most of the information needed to assemble a bomb.” A Washington-based expert told the Post that the bomb design “appears deliverable by North Korea’s NoDong missile, Iran’s Shahab-3 missile, and ballistic missiles Iraq was pursuing” before the first Gulf War. More alarmingly, weapons experts said that such a design might be very attractive to terrorists. One said that they could “drive it away in a pickup truck.”

The Post reported that the package of documents contained some written in Chinese along with “open-source literature on nuclear weapons from U.S. weapons labs.” U.S. officials told the Post that the Libyan documents provided “dramatic evidence of China’s long-suspected role in transferring nuclear know-how to Pakistan in the early 1980s. The Indian press reports that China has been the main supplier to Pakistan’s nuclear program for years. China’s proliferation behavior has been a major U.S. concern, but this is the first public confirmation that its expertise and technologies have spread beyond Pakistan.

The Post found a Clinton-administration arms-controller who said that the Chinese had changed “dramatically” in recent years and are now more cooperative on non-proliferation. But that’s just more Clinton “let’s pretend” foreign policy. In his book The China Threat, Bill Gertz revealed that Chinese arms transfers to rogue states “sharply increased” after 1998. Intelligence reports leaked to Gertz showed the Chinese exporting WMD and missile technologies to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. Gertz wrote that these reports also showed China exporting U.S. technologies, including those for missile production, to Pakistan.

The Australian Sydney Morning Herald ran a Reuters story that reported U.S. officials are also “concerned about what the Saudis are getting from the Chinese in terms of missiles.” Reuters quoted “experts” speculating that Saudi Arabia has been bankrolling the Pakistan nuclear program in hopes of getting warheads for its own Chinese-supplied missiles. Curiously, this report and a follow-on denial by China appeared only in the Australian and New Zealand media.