[NCI Logo]

China's Non-Proliferation Words
China's Nuclear Proliferation Deeds*


What China Said

What China Did


`Like many other peace-loving countries, China does not advocate or encourage nuclear proliferation, and we are emphatically opposed to any production of nuclear weapons by racists and expansionists such as South Africa and Israel.'
Yu Peiwen, head of Chinese delegation to Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Xinhua, 8/4/81.
In 1981, China supplies South Africa (at that time not a member of the NPT and pursuing a nuclear weapons program) with 60 tons of unsafeguarded enriched uranium. This enriched uranium may have enabled South Africa to triple weapons-grade uranium output at the Valindaba facility.1 In 1981, other unsafeguarded Chinese exports include highly enriched uranium, uranium hexaflouride, and heavy water to Argentina, and heavy water to India. Both nations are non-NPT states with nuclear weapons programs at the time.2


`China does not encourage or support nuclear proliferation.'
Vice Premier Li Peng, Xinhua, 10/18/83.
In 1983, China contracts with Algeria, then a non-NPT state, to construct a large, unsafeguarded plutonium-production reactor. Construction of the reactor complex began after November 1984---well after China's April 1984 pledge to subject all future nuclear exports to IAEA safeguards, and while China is negotiating a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States.3 China also supplies Algeria with large hot cells, which can be used to handle highly radioactive spent fuel to separate plutonium.4


`We are critical of the discriminatory treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, but we do not advocate or encourage nuclear proliferation. We do not engage in nuclear proliferation ourselves, nor do we help other countries develop nuclear weapons.'
Premier Zhao Ziyang, White House state dinner on 1/10/84, Xinhua, 1/11/84 (Note: A US official later said that `These were solemn assurances with in fact the force of law,' AP, 6/15/84).
U.S. officials reveal that, in the early 1980s, China provided Pakistan with the design for a nuclear weapon, and probably enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for one to two bombs.5


"China has no intention, either at the present or in the future, to help non-nuclear countries develop nuclear weapons."
Li Peng, Chinese Vice Premier, Xinhua, January 18, 1985.

`The Chinese made it clear to us that when they say they will not assist other countries to develop nuclear weapons, this also applies to all nuclear explosives . . . We are satisfied that the [nonproliferation] policies they have adopted are consistent with our own basic views.'
Ambassador Richard Kennedy, Department of State, Congressional testimony, 10/9/85.

`Discussions with China that have taken place since the initialling of the proposed [nuclear] Agreement have contributed significantly to a shared understanding with China on what it means not to assist other countries to acquire nuclear explosives, and in facilitating China's steps to put all these new policies into place. Thus, ACDA believes that the statements of policy by senior Chinese officials, as clarified by these discussions, represent a clear commitment not to assist a non-nuclear-weapon state in the acquisition of nuclear explosives.'
ACDA, `Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement,' submitted to Congress on 7/24/85 with the US/China Agreement for Cooperation, 7/19/85.

`China is not a party to the NPT, but its stance on the question is clear-cut and above-board . . . it stands for nuclear disarmament and disapproves of nuclear proliferation . . . In recent years, the Chinese Government has more and more, time and again reiterated that China neither advocates nor encourages nuclear proliferation, and its cooperation with other countries in the nuclear field is only for peaceful purposes'.
Ambassador Ho Qian Jiadong, speech given at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, 6/27/85 (quoted by Amb. Richard Kennedy in congressional testimony, 7/31/85).

In addition to covering up its export of the unsafeguarded reactor to Algeria, China secretly sells Pakistan tritium, an element used in the trigger of hydrogen bombs as well as to boost the yield of fission weapons.6


`China does not advocate or encourage nuclear proliferation, nor does it help other countries develop nuclear weapons.'
Vice Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, Beijing Review, 3/30/87.

`As everyone knows, China does not advocate nor encourage nuclear proliferation. China does not engage in developing or assisting other countries to develop nuclear weapons.'
Foreign Ministry spokesman, Beijing radio, 5/4/89.

In 1989, China agrees to build a light-water reactor for Pakistan, begins assisting Iran's development of indigenous manufacturing capability for medium-range ballistic missiles, and assists Iraq in the manufacture of samarium-cobalt ring magnets for uranium-enrichment centrifuges.7


"...the Chinese government has consistently supported and participated in the international community's efforts for preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons."
Ambassador Hou Zhitong, Xinhua, 4/1/91.

In September 1990, after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the imposition of an international trade embargo, China provides Iraq with lithium hydride, a chemical compound useful in both boosted-fission and thermonuclear (hydrogen) bombs, as well as in ballistic missile fuel. 8


`The report claiming that China provides medium-range missiles for Pakistan is absolutely groundless. China does not stand for, encourage, or engage itself in nuclear proliferation and does not aid other countries in developing nuclear weapons.'
Foreign ministry spokesman Wu Janmin, Zhongguo Ximwen She, 4/25/91.
Sometime around 1991, China provides ballistic missile technology to Syria, including the nuclear-capable M-9 missile. In 1993, a Chinese corporation exports ammonium perchlorate, a missile fuel precursor, to the Iraqi government via a Jordanian purchasing agent.9 In August 1993, the United States imposes sanctions on China for exporting nuclear-capable M-11 ballistic missiles to Pakistan.


`China has struck no nuclear deals with Iran . . . This inference is preposterous.'
Chinese embassy official Chen Guoqing, rebutting a claim that China had sold nuclear technology to Iran, letter to Washington Post, 7/2/91.
In 1991, China supplies Iran with a research reactor capable of producing plutonium10 and a calutron, a technology that can be used to enrich uranium to weapons-grade.11 (Calutrons enriched the uranium in the "Little Boy" bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, and were at the center of Saddam Hussein's effort to develop an Iraqi nuclear bomb.)


`China does not engage in proliferation of weapons of mass destruction . . .'
Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, AP newswire, 10/4/94.
China supplies a complete nuclear fusion research reactor facility to Iran, and provides technical assistance in making it operational.12 China, with apparent U.S. acquiescence, agrees to replace France as supplier of low-enriched uranium fuel for India's U.S.-supplied Tarapur reactors. The U.S. cut off supply of LEU soon after India's nuclear explosion of 1974. This LEU supply makes it easier for India to concentrate other nuclear assets on its weapons program.13


`China has never transferred or sold any nuclear technology or equipment to Pakistan . . . We therefore hope the U.S. Government will not base its policy-making on hearsay.'
Foreign Ministry Deputy Secretary Shen Guofang, Hong Kong, AFP, 3/26/96 (after discovery of the ring magnet sale to Pakistan).
In 1995, China exports 5,000 ring magnets to Pakistan. Such magnets are integral components of high-speed gas centrifuges of the type used by Pakistan to enrich uranium to weapons-grade.14


`. . . we have absolutely binding assurances from the Chinese, which we consider a commitment on their part not to export ring magnets or any other technologies to unsafeguarded facilities . . . The negotiating record is made up primarily of conversations, which were detailed and recorded, between US and Chinese officials.'
Under Secretary of State Peter Tarnoff, congressional testimony, 5/16/96.

`China's position on nuclear proliferation is very clear . . . It does not advocate, encourage, or engage in nuclear proliferation, nor does it assist other countries in developing nuclear weapons. It always undertakes its international legal obligations of preventing nuclear proliferation . . . China has always been cautious and responsible in handling its nuclear exports and exports of materials and facilities that might lead to nuclear proliferation.'
Statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Cui Tiankai, Beijing, Xinhua, 9/15/97.

In July 1997, a CIA report concludes that, in the second half of 1996, "China was the single most important supplier of equipment and technology for weapons of mass destruction" worldwide.15 The report also states that, for the period July to December 1996---i.e. after China's May 11, 1996 pledge to the United States not to provide assistance to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities---China was Pakistan's "primary source of nuclear-related equipment and technology..."16


`The question of assurance does not exist. China and Iran currently do not have any nuclear cooperation . . . We do not sell nuclear weapons to any country or transfer related technology. This is our long-standing position, this policy is targeted at all countries.' Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang, Los Angles, 11/2/97, Reuters, 11/3/97.

`I wish to emphasize once again China has never transferred nuclear weapons or relevant technology to other countries, including Iran . . . China has never done it in the past, we do not do it now, nor will be do it in the future.'
Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang, Kyodo, 10/21/97.

According to a CIA report, China is "a key supplier" of nuclear technology to Iran, exporting over $60 million worth annually. Fourteen Chinese nuclear experts are reportedly working at Iranian nuclear facilities.17

End Notes

* China's non-proliferation statements are documented in Rep. Benjamin Gilman, "China's Nuclear Nonproliferation Promises: 1981-1997," Congressional Record, November 5, 1997, p. H10073. China's proliferation deeds are documented in Steven Dolley, "China's Record of Proliferation Misbehavior," Nuclear Control Institute, September 29, 1997.

1. Leonard Spector, Nuclear Ambitions, 1990, p. 274; Michael Brenner, "People's Republic of China," in International Nuclear Trade and Nonproliferation, Ed. William Potter, 1990, p. 253.

2. Judith Miller, "U.S. is Holding Up Peking Atom Talks," New York Times, September 19, 1982; Brenner, ibid.; Gary Milhollin and Gerard White, "A New China Syndrome: Beijing's Atomic Bazaar," Washington Post, May 12, 1991, p. C4.

3. Vipin Gupta, "Algeria's Nuclear Ambitions," International Defense Review, #4, 1992, pp. 329-330.

4. Mark Hibbs, "Move to Block China Certification Doesn't Concern Administration," Nucleonics Week, August 7, 1997, p. 11.

5. Leslie Gelb, "Pakistan Link Perils U.S.-China Nuclear Pact," New York Times, June 22, 1984, p. Al; Leonard Spector et al., Tracking Nuclear Proliferation, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1995, p. 49.

6. Milhollin and White, "A New China Syndrome," op cit., p. C4.

7. "Iraq and the Bomb," MidEast Markets, December 11, 1989, p. 130.

8. Tim Kelsey, "Chinese Arms Dealers Flaunt U.N. Embargo--China Ships Vital Nuclear Cargo to Iraq," London Sunday Independent, September 30, 1990, reprinted in Congressional Record, October 18, 1990, p. H10531.

9. Export Control News, December 30, 1994, p. 14.

10. Kenneth Timmerman, "Tehran's A-Bomb Program Shows Startling Progress," Washington Times, May 8, 1995. According to Timmerman, China and Iran did not report the 1991 purchase of this reactor to the IAEA.

11. Marie Colvin, "Secret Iranian Plans for a Nuclear Bomb," Sunday Times (London), July 28, 1991; Russell Watson, "Merchants of Death," Newsweek, November 18, 1991, p. 38.

12. Gary Milhollin, Wisconsin Project, Testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, September 18, 1997, p. 8

13. Mark Hibbs, "Reported VVER-1000 Sale to India Raises NSG Concern on Safeguards," Nucleonics Week, January 12, 1995, p. 1.

14. Tim Weiner, "Atom Arms Parts Sold to Pakistan by China, U.S. Says," New York Times, February 8, 1996, p. Al.

15. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Nonproliferation Center, "The Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions," 1997, p. 5. See also Mark Hibbs, "DOD, ACDA Want China Accord Link to Other Weapons Export Limits," Nucleonics Week, August 21, 1997, p. 2; Tim Weiner, "China is Top Supplier to Nations Seeking Powerful, Banned Arms," New York Times, July 3, 1997, p. A10.

16. CIA report, "The Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction," op cit., p. 5.

17. CIA report, ibid.; Con Coughlin, "U.S. Sounds Alarm Over Iran Nuclear Threat," Sunday Telegraph (London), February 23, 1997, p. 24.

[US-China Page]] US-China Page[What's New Page]] What's New Page [Home Page]Home Page