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US, Chinese Experts Discuss Preventing Spread of Nuclear Materials - 2004-07-20


U.S. experts are calling on China to help prevent nuclear weapons from ending up in the hands of terrorists. Dozens of American and Chinese experts are gathered for a two-day meeting in Beijing.

The potential danger of nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists and how to stop that from happening is the main topic of discussion as American and Chinese experts from government and private agencies meet in Beijing.

The fifth U.S.-China Conference on Arms Control, Disarmament, and Proliferation is organized by China's Arms Control and Disarmament Association, and the California-based Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Monterey Institute professor William Potter says the meeting will address the problem of (non-state actors) individuals who traffic in nuclear technology, possibly for terrorist use. He says this is an important element missing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. "We have to tighten export controls dealing with nuclear material, and we have to, in particular, find some means to hold states accountable for the actions of their citizens and companies which operate on their territory," he says.

Experts at the meeting say the case of A.Q. Khan, the former head of Pakistan's nuclear program, highlights the need for changes to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Mr. Khan confessed to trafficking nuclear technology between 1989 and 2000, to Iran, Libya, and North Korea - nations listed by the United States as sponsors of terrorism.

China, which has nuclear weapons, has enacted tough laws banning the export of nuclear technology. But Professor Potter says enforcement remains an area of concern. "China has made a lot of headway in developing a national system of export controls, but I think more needs to be done to implement those arrangements," says Mr. Potter.

Analysts say China has not always succeeded in enforcing its export laws because some of the Chinese companies suspected of violating export controls have strong links to the government.

Some in the United States expressed concern recently when China signed a deal with Pakistan to build a nuclear reactor. The agreement was made amid reports that Chinese scientists had cooperated with Pakistan decades ago by transferring a nuclear-warhead design.

A U.S. Congressional report this year cited what it said is recent intelligence information that indicate China continues nuclear cooperation with Pakistan and Iran.

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