Thursday, July 12, 2007

US Criticizes China for Arms Transfers to Iran

Voice of America (VOA) reported Thursday that an American official accused China of failing to do all it should to stop militarily significant supplies from reaching Iran, even though China voted for United Nations sanctions aimed at preventing Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

Ambassador Don Mahley, who is Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for international security and nonproliferation, told the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission that Chinese companies sold items to Iran that the United States considers banned under UN resolutions aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability.

Commonly called the China Commission, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission is a Congressional advisory body that was created in the year 2000 to monitor, investigate, and submit to Congress an annual report on the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the US and China, and to provide recommendations, where appropriate, to Congress for legislative and administrative action.

Mahley spoke on the first day of a two-day public hearing in Washington on China’s Proliferation and Impact of Trade Policy on Defense Industries in the US and China. The hearing will examine the impact of China’s proliferation practices on US national security, China’s compliance with its own nonproliferation laws and regulations and international proliferation norms, the development of indigenous defense industrial capacity in China, and the impact of trade practices and manufacturing in China on the US defense industrial base.

"There have been transfers, which we have addressed with the Chinese, in which we believe that the transfers were not permitted by UN Security Council resolutions 1737 and 1747," Mahley said.

He added that Beijing does not dispute that the transfers occurred, but differs with Washington about whether the transfers violate the UN resolutions. Mahley efused to publicly name specific equipment or technology, but he said they were "involved" with Iran's missile and nuclear programs.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense David Sedney testified that the Chinese government has taken what he called a legalistic approach to the UN resolutions, which do not call for a blanket ban on such transfers to Iran.

"Very clearly, the transfers that Ambassador Mahley's talking about are things that are not consistent with the spirit of those U.N. resolutions and the purpose and intent of them," Sedney said.

Sedney also questioned Chinese sales of conventional arms to Iran.

"Supplying conventional weapons to Iran, at a time when Iran is supplying and funding groups in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan, that are confronting and sometimes killing American troops and our allies, that is not the activities that I would expect of a strategic or of a cooperative partner," he said.

Sedney also highlighted US concerns that Beijing is allowing transfers of what he described as a wide variety of dual-use and conventional technologies to countries like Burma, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.