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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 10, November 1996

US-China arms control talks continue

High-level US-China discussions on a range of arms control and non-proliferation issues have been continuing, with an early November visit to Beijing by Under-Secretary of State Lynn Davies. See last issue for an account of the visit of John Holum, Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency - and next issue for an account of the visit of Secretary of State Warren Christopher, and a full US-China summit.

After two days of talks (4-5 November), including meetings with Foreign Minister Qian Qichen and Vice Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, Davies commented: "We have been encouraged by the steps that China is taking and the positive moves we have been able to make here..."

During the visit, China repeated its criticism of US arms sales to Taiwan. According to government spokesperson Chui Tiankai (5 November): "For us, the most sensitive issue is that the United States has violated agreements on selling weapons to Taiwan... We have repeatedly voiced our concern to the US side and hope it will pay attention." Davies retorted, during her 5 November press conference: "I reiterated the US commitment to the one-China policy and that our arms sales are in line with that."

It was reported that the agenda of the discussions included India's rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; North Korea; possible civil nuclear cooperation between the US and China; and China's policy on the export of nuclear-related technology and missiles.

On export policy, Davies sounded fairly positive about developments since an undertaking given by China in May not to transfer technology to unsafeguarded facilities: "We need to ensure practical implementation of the May commitment. We have been working with the Chinese and are encouraged by the steps they have taken." The US has been particularly concerned about alleged sales of nuclear-related technology to Pakistan and Iran. Reports during Davies' visit suggested that China had agreed not to proceed with the sale of a 'uranium conversion facility' to Iran. On the issue of missile exports, State Department spokesperson Nicholas Burns was vague but up-beat: "We believe that China has made important commitments to the United States concerning missile non-proliferation."

On the prospects for peaceful nuclear cooperation - specifically, for activating a dormant agreement signed in the 1980s - Li Donghui, Deputy Director-General of the National Nuclear Corporation's International Cooperation Bureau, said on 4 November:

"Sino-US cooperation in nuclear energy development has yet to enter a substantial stage... Negotiations on the agreement are still under way..."

Reports: US officials start proliferation talks in China, Reuter News Reports, 4 November; United States praises China's commitment to arms control, Agence France-Presse International News, 5 November; China says Taiwan key issue at US arms talks, Reuter News Reports, 5 November; China may scrap nuclear deal with Iran - report, Agence France-Presse International News, 6 November.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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