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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 17, July - August 1997

US to Expand Export Controls as CIA Report Slams China, Russia

On 2 July, William Reinsch, Under-secretary of Commerce for Exports, announced a tightening of US regulations governing exports considered potentially useful in the development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Although details were patchy, the new regulations are said to expand the number of items considered capable of abuse in this way, concentrating on production materials as well as the traditional high-technology focus.

In addition, the Commerce Department has drawn up a new 'watch-list' of research institutions it suspects of harbouring weapons-development plans. On 30 June, the list was published. According to Reinsch: "Publishing this...puts exporters on notice that any products sold to these end-users may present a problem and will require a license from the Bureau of Export Administration." Reinsch added:

"The Commerce Department has wanted to do this for a long time... So far, the focus has been on entities that engage in nuclear research, but there are other things out there that need to be controlled - chemicals and missiles."

The new regulations were announced in the same week as the unclassified version of a report by the Non-Proliferation Center of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was published. The report is strongly critical of the export policies and performance of China and Russia. The report, looking specifically at exports in the second half of 1996, concluded that China was "the most significant supplier of WMD[weapons-of-mass-destruction]-related goods and technology to foreign countries." It added:

"The Chinese provided a tremendous variety of assistance to both Iran's and Pakistan's ballistic missile programs. China was also the primary source of nuclear-related equipment and technology to Pakistan and a key supplier to Iran... Pakistan was very aggressive [in seeking sensitive technologies]...with China as its principal supplier."

With regard to Russia's alleged transgressions, the report stated that it had exported "a variety of ballistic missile related goods to foreign countries...especially to Iran" and that it was "an important source for nuclear programs in Iran and, to a lesser extent, India and Pakistan."

Editor's note: on 1 August, it was reported that China had agreed to new regulations governing nuclear-related exports. The decision was apparently taken by the Cabinet's Executive Committee. Details were scarce. According to the Xinhua news agency:

"Committee members stressed the necessity...to safeguard national security and public interests, as well as promote international cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy."

Reports: China, Russia biggest suppliers of destructive weapons - report, Agence France-Presse International News, 2 July; US expands weapons crackdown, AP Online Washington News Wire, 2 July; CIA - China sells missile technology, AP Online Washington News Wire, 2 July; China approves rules on nuclear exports, Worldstream International News Wire, 1 August.

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