China’s Track Record in Nuclear and Missile Proliferation

01 Dec, 2000    ·   440

Arpit Rajain explains that while China continued to deny any involvement in aiding Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programme all these years the current reassurance only confirms to the world what was already known

Over the last decade and a half, China ’s missile and nuclear co-operation with Pakistan has caused great concern to the non-proliferation community. Viewed in this perspective the current assurance by China to reinforce its nuclear and missile export control system has received a guarded welcome.



China has been a primary source of nuclear and missile material to Pakistan and Iran . There have been concerns on China ’s refusal to accept full-scope safeguards and the dual-use nature of its nuclear technology exports. China has continually denied any nuclear and missile transfers, but its track record of weapons sales, technology transfers, and nuclear energy assistance, particularly to Iran and Pakistan , has been a key security issue in Sino-US relations. 



·                     Reports continue to pour in of Chinese non-compliance with its 1992 pledge to abide by the original 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) guidelines, and its 1994 bilateral statement with the United States that it would accept the "inherent capability" concept associated with the MTCR. 


·                     China has not yet pledged to adhere by the revised 1993 Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) guidelines. 


·                     There have been concerns relating to China ’s chemical weapons-related sales to Iran . Hence, the United States imposed sanctions against two Chinese companies, a Hong Kong company, and five Chinese individuals for chemical weapons-related exports to Iran in May 1997


·                     Pakistan ’s heavy water reactor and the A.Q. Khan Research Laboratory (KRL) at Kahuta are believed to have a substantial Chinese contribution. 


·                     China has also continued to actively assist Pakistan in constructing its missile production complex at Fatehgarh, near Rawalpindi


·                     China has not participated in the US Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors (RERTR) program. 


·                     In 1997, China for the first time, did not submit a voluntary declaration on arms exports and imports to the UN Register on Conventional Arms. 


·                     China has also had difficulty in implementing and enforcing export control regulations covering nuclear and chemical weapons-related equipment, materials, and technologies. 


·                     China has not yet adopted explicit export control regulations covering missile technologies, especially dual-use missile technologies. 


·                     China does not require full-scope safeguards (FSS) as a condition for supply of nuclear exports. 


·                     China is not a member of important multilateral export control regimes, like the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Australia Group (AG), and the Wassenaar Arrangement. 


·                     The US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), in its 1997 and 1998 annual report on arms control compliance, stated that, based on Beijing's long standing nuclear ties with Islamabad, it was unclear whether Beijing had broken off its contacts with Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. 


·                     In a 1997 report the Director of Central Intelligence stated that China "was the primary source of nuclear-related equipment and technology to Pakistan " during the second half of 1996. 


·                     Pakistan ’s Shaheen missile is produced in the factory near Rawalpindi which was reportedly designed and equipped by China


While China continued to deny any involvement in aiding Pakistan ’s nuclear and missile programme all these years the current reassurance only confirms to the world what was already known. China knows Pakistan will remain dependent on it for continued supplies, spares and ancillaries. 



The research, development, deployment and proliferation of sophisticated missile systems have a direct impact on regional and international security, and could trigger a new arms race. This will seriously obstruct or neutralise international efforts nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation.