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China's Top Arms Control Negotiator To Visit Washington - 2002-02-27

China is sending a special negotiator to Washington next month, hoping to resolve a disagreement over the spread of Chinese weapons technology to other nations. China expects Washington to stop complaining about alleged broken promises on arms control.

China's top arms control negotiator, Liu Jieyi, is expected to travel to Washington in early March. He aims to resolve Sino-American bickering over an agreement that was supposed to stop the spread of weapons technology out of China.

China says it is keeping its end of the deal, signed in November 2000, but should be allowed to deliver technology that was promised to customers before the agreement.

The U.S. side worries that some of this technology might go to North Korea or Iran. Washington accuses those nations and Iraq of seeking to build weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them.

American arms control expert Jack Mendelsohn says since China and the United States have joined forces in the fight against terrorism, Beijing is inclined to cooperate on keeping advanced weapons out of the hands of some nations. But Professor Mendelsohn says Beijing faces some political considerations. "I think they have to be cautious about not appearing to be dictated to by the United States on these issues, so that will be a fine line. I suspect that the Chinese will recommit and perhaps actually be more vigilant in controlling (military) exports," Mr. Mendelsohn said.

Professor Mendelshon says Beijing is likely to raise its concerns about U.S. plans to build missile defenses.

China has about two dozen nuclear-armed missiles. Beijing says the force is just big enough to prevent bullying by the United States and Russia, which have thousands of nuclear weapons. Beijing fears U.S. missile defenses might make China's modest nuclear force irrelevant. China also complains the United States is breaking a promise to reduce weapon sales to Taiwan. In the past, Chinese officials have hinted that Beijing might be less likely to send its weapons technology overseas if Washington was more restrained in selling advanced weapons to Taiwan, which China considers a rebel province.

Next month's arms talks come at a time of generally warming relations between China and the United States.

President Bush just finished a visit to Beijing that both sides called successful, even though it yielded no major agreements. China's President Jiang Zemin and Vice President Hu Jintao have both accepted invitations to visit the United States.