Administration Slaps China for Missile Sales

The Bush administration lashed out at China (search) before an international audience on Monday for not stopping its munitions companies from selling missile technology (search) to Iran and other rogue states.

Speaking to a conference in Tokyo sponsored by Japan, Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton (search) said the Bush administration would move aggressively to suspend business with companies that provide sensitive weapons technology to Iran and other countries seeking to build weapons of mass destruction.

The speech by the administration's top arms control official appears to mark a shift in tactics. Sanctions have usually been applied quietly on offending firms. But Bolton spoke forcefully and publicly about meting out punishment, and held the Chinese government directly accountable.

In the speech, Bolton also renewed the administration's opposition to plans by European nations to resume arms sales to China by ending an embargo imposed after China's bloody attack on protesters in and near Tiananmen Square in 1989.

"The embargo on arms sales to China is not outmoded," Bolton said. "It is just as important to champion human rights today as it was in 1989."

A second reason to maintain the embargo, Bolton said, is to protect Japan and other East Asian countries while also not permitting China to "significantly improve its coercive capability" against Taiwan.

In some ways, Bolton praised China, such as for its joint effort with the United States, Japan, South Korea and Russia to negotiate an end North Korea's development of nuclear weapons.

"Our cooperation on mutually shared interests, however, does not mean that the United States will shy away from highlighting areas of disagreement and concern," Bolton said.

Last year, he said, Chinese companies were cited for having provided ballistic missile technology to Iran, Pakistan, North Korea and Libya.

"On numerous occasions we have expressed our concern about these entities to the Chinese government and have asked Beijing to subject exports by these serial proliferators to persistent and close scrutiny," Bolton said.

"Unfortunately," he said, "we continue to see transfers by these serious proliferators of missile-related items to rogue states and outposts of tyranny such as Iran."

For example, Bolton said, the Bush administration has alerted the Chinese government for some time to concerns about the activities of the China North Industries Corp. And yet, he said, "we are not aware that the Chinese government has taken any action to halt NORINCO's proliferant behavior."