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China Issues New Controls on Missile Technology - 2002-08-26

China has issued new controls on missile technology exports after more than a year of prodding by Washington. The move is expected to help improve Sino-American ties ahead of a key summit in October. China says the new export rules show that it, too, opposes the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.

The rules announced by the official Xinhua News Agency Sunday do not actually appear to ban the export of missile technology, but they do set up a new licensing system to control the trade. Exporters of missile-related products must register with government agencies in advance or face stiff penalties. China's foreign trade ministry will monitor and approve any exports.

In addition, the China Daily quotes Kong Quan, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, as saying that China is ready to conduct in-depth exchanges with other nations about the entire non-proliferation question.

As Robert Karniol, Asia-Pacific editor of Jane's Defense Weekly in Bangkok, tells VOA, Washington has long been urging Beijing to limit the export of its missile technology. "It's certainly been a steady thorn in the side of the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and China for several years," he says. "And Washington has consequently, as part of that process, introduced sanctions on several occasions."

China promised in November 2000 not to help any country develop missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. But Washington says Beijing has not stuck to its promise, and has continued to supply missiles to Pakistan.

In response, the United States has banned the launch of American commercial satellites on Chinese rockets. And in July, the State Department said the U.S. government would impose sanctions against nine Chinese companies for transferring sensitive equipment to other countries, mainly Iran. The White House welcomed China's new export controls, but said that many other weapons-related issues remain to be resolved.

Mr. Karniol says the new rules could help improve Sino-American ties. But, he says, rules issued by China's central government are not automatically followed by local government officials. "The first step in such a process we see with the introduction of centrally-issued regulations. The next step in the process is actually implementing the regulations at a local level."

The new rules were announced just as Richard Armitage, the U.S. deputy secretary of state, arrived in Beijing, where he is due to discuss Chinese President Jiang Zemin's scheduled visit to the United States in October.