China helped North Korea develop nuclear weapons and in the past year increased its support to Pyongyang, rather than pressing the regime to halt nuclear arms and missile activities, according to a congressional report.
The final draft report of the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission also says that Chinese government-run companies are continuing to threaten U.S. national security by exporting arms to American enemies in Asia and the Middle East. The report is based on public testimony and highly classified intelligence reports made available to its members and staff. It indirectly criticizes the Bush administration for failing to pressure Beijing into joining U.S.-led anti-proliferation programs and calls for Congress to take action to force the administration to do more.
“China has contributed at least indirectly to North Korea’s nuclear program,” the report stated, noting that China was a “primary supplier” to Pakistan’s nuclear-arms program. A copy of the commission’s final draft report, due to be released formally next month, was made available to The Washington Times by congressional aides. Congress created the bipartisan commission of outside experts in 2000 to analyze the impact of U.S.-China relations on security and the economy.
North Korea was a recipient of nuclear goods supplied by the covert Pakistani nuclear supplier network headed by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, according to the group’s fourth annual report. Several links between Pakistan and North Korea’s arms programs have been identified, it stated. The unclassified version of the report does not include details of the Chinese support but notes that China has “a history” of helping North Korea develop its weapons.
According to U.S. intelligence officials, North Korean front companies operate freely in China and have used China as a transit point for trade in missile and nuclear components. One North Korean nuclear procurement agent was identified by U.S. officials in 2002 as Yun Ho-jin, who while working in Shenyang, China, sought to buy metal rods with nuclear applications in Germany while posing as an official of the Chinese aircraft manufacturer Shenyang Aircraft Corp.
Also, Chinese language documents on how to design a small nuclear warhead for a missile were discovered by U.S. intelligence officials in Libya after Tripoli agreed to dismantle its nuclear program. China’s government has not explained how the warhead documents reached Libya. U.S. officials think the warhead documents likely were sold by the Khan network and were also supplied to Iran and North Korea.
On China’s failure to pressure North Korea, the commission report said that China has refused to exert economic pressure and “instead has actually increased its assistance and trade with North Korea.”
Disclosure of the report comes as China last week refused to join the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which the Bush administration hopes to use in enforcing U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at halting North Korean trade in illicit arms-related goods. The Chinese turned down an appeal from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her recent visit to Beijing to join PSI. The refusal raises questions about whether China will cooperate in a United Nations embargo against weapons and technology going in and out of North Korea.
Administration officials have praised China for supporting U.S. efforts to curb North Korea’s arms programs. However, the report makes clear that Chinese cooperation is limited. On China’s role in arms proliferation, the report stated that Chinese companies and government organizations “continue to provide weapons, weapons components and weapons technology” in violation of China’s commitments to international nonproliferation agreements.
The arms transfers “harm regional security in East Asia and the Middle East,” the report said. “Given strong U.S. interests in both regions, China’s proliferation threatens U.S. security and potentially could place at risk U.S. troops operating in those regions,” the report said. The report also raises questions about whether China is willing to play a responsible role in working for global peace and stability. Beijing’s support for World Trade Organization commitments is “spotty and halting,” it said.
“And China’s apparent willingness to value its own energy needs above the needs of international security is indicative of a nation as yet unprepared or unwilling to shoulder the burdens of a stakeholder state,” it said. The report recommends that Congress take steps to pressure China into joining the PSI, and calls on Congress to press President Bush to force China to carry out both sea and land inspections of weapons related goods going in and out of North Korea under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718.
The report recommends tightening sanctions on Chinese companies engaged in illicit arms sales, and says Congress should also require the president to provide regular reports identifying what actions China has taken to curb North Korean and Iranian nuclear activities.