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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 24, March 1998

US-China Non-Proliferation Policies

Press Conference by John D. Holum, Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs and Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Beijing, 26 March 1998


"In October 1997, President Clinton and President Jiang agreed to deepen the dialogue on security issues between the United States and the People's Republic of China. To advance this effort, we held two days of talks this week - very productive discussions with Vice Foreign Minister Zhang on the full range of arms control, nonproliferation and international security affairs issues. I also met with Foreign Minister Tang, Vice Foreign Minister Yang, and PLA [People's Liberation Army] Deputy Chief of Staff General Xiong.

In particular, we consulted on our common efforts to promote peace and stability in Asia, to advance international arms control, and to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missiles. Let me mention several areas of interest:

  • We exchanged views on recent developments concerning the Korean Peninsula, including our common efforts to advance the Four Party Peace Talks process.
  • We agreed on the importance of strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention, a high priority of President Clinton, to help address the threat posed by the proliferation of biological weapons.
  • We discussed implementation of the Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation Agreement and also ways of expanding our mutual efforts to prevent the spread of missiles and chemical weapons. We also exchanged views on the possibility of peaceful space cooperation.

In our meetings, we agreed to increase and intensify our efforts and discussions in the security area in anticipation of the visit of President Clinton to China in June. I expect to meet with Vice Foreign Minister Zhang again in the near future to continue our consultations and to help prepare for the upcoming meeting between our Presidents. ..."


"Question: '[D]o you accept that China has told something less than the whole truth in the past in terms of its surreptitious sales to Iran and other countries, and if you do accept that, what leads you to believe they are telling the whole truth now or in the future on nonproliferation issues?'

Holum: 'I don't want to get into characterizing what they have said and what they have not said, and getting in to that kind of a by-play. I think our impression is that China has lived up to the specific commitments it has made. For example, in 1996 China made a commitment not to cooperate or participate in unsafeguarded nuclear facilities, nuclear projects. As near as we can tell, they have lived up to that commitment. They have more recently made an agreement or commitment to us not to engage in continuous nuclear cooperation with Iran and again our information suggests they are in compliance with that agreement. So I think, by and large, once the Chinese make a commitment they are strongly inclined to stand by it.'

Question: 'There was a report a few days back in the Washington Times that the United States had decided to offer China access to missile technology now barred if Beijing agrees to end exports of missiles to Iran, Pakistan and other countries. Is that something you discussed during these talks?'

Holum: 'Well, missile proliferation is a long-standing very high priority for this Administration and it clearly was one of the key issues discussed in our talks. We have a very strong interest in promoting restraints on missile-related exports in accordance with the Missile Technology Control Regime guidelines and in this regard we have been encouraging China to strengthen its controls of missile-related exports, so that clearly has been a matter of discussion this week.'

Question: 'You said that in the past when the US has discovered things amiss in terms of technology proliferation, you have raised it with your Chinese colleagues. As I understand, their response often has been that these sorts of transfers have occurred beyond the reach of central control, so I wonder whether in your discussions today with any officials, especially General Xiong, whether you got into details about how China might firm up its central control over this sort of thing.'

Holum: 'One of the things that we are particularly interested in is advancing collaboration in the area of export controls. My colleague from the Department of Commerce Under Secretary Bill Reinsch has been with us on this delegation, and we have looked into both dual-use ammunition export control collaboration, and we expect that that will continue. We both have a great deal to learn about the most effective ways of controlling exports, in particular, setting up enforcement mechanisms. I think we have a common understanding that we have been successful in recent years in building much better global regimes to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. ... But the next necessary step is to make sure that we have the tools in place to effectively implement those treaties at a time when the flow of technology around the world is increasingly difficult to control. This is an area I think we and the Chinese will be working together on for the indefinite future, and we certainly expect to intensify our collaboration as part of the security dialogue that we continued today.'

Question: 'Have you received any assurance from the Chinese side regarding its missile and nuclear sales to Pakistan and...I would like to have your comments regarding India's new government's plan to review its nuclear policy. ...'

Holum: 'We discussed, without going into specifics, we did discuss the entire range of missile and nuclear related matters. And we had I think a useful and productive discussion on that subject. In the case of the Indian government's formation and its plans, our view has consistently been that any government in India or Pakistan should act with restraint, and avoid provocative steps that could lead to competition...in South Asia... We will obviously be watching and consulting with the Indian Government as it forms its policy in this area.'

Question: 'How about the peaceful use of [nuclear energy]...'


'... As you know, this past week, I guess it was last week, the deadline expired for congressional action on the activation of the Agreement on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. That means that the private sector is now free to participate in nuclear projects, peaceful nuclear projects in China. Those will obviously have to be commercially viable and there will be commercial arrangements negotiated between the companies. For example, Westinghouse or General Electric and relevant Chinese officials can now proceed. The government will not be conducting that activity - it will be done by the private sector.

I might add that we are very pleased that it was possible to activate that agreement which has been in place since 1985, but has been held up because, largely because of nuclear related proliferation concerns. In this area, China has taken a number of significant steps in the recent past. ... It has taken steps to adopt an effective national export control system on nuclear materials, and again we believe that China is honoring these commitments. By the same token the United States is happy to proceed with the Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.'"

Source: Transcript - March 26 John Holum Beijing Press Conference, United States Information Service, 27 March.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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