A new US congressional report hints that China may be withholding its full cooperation on stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction in an effort to eliminate arms sales by the US to Taiwan.
While it might share US concerns about nuclear nonproliferation, China has expressed reservations about sanctions against Iran, the report says.
China has supplied sensitive technology to Iran — a country suspected of trying to build nuclear weapons — and Beijing has interests in raising its leverage on Washington “to check US dominance and support for Taiwan,” the report says.
The report, titled China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, was written by US Congressional Research Service Asian security affairs specialist Shirley Kan.
It says that in the past, China has openly tried to link diplomacy aimed at stemming Iran’s nuclear program with arms sales to Taiwan. It added that China once blocked a US initiative on Iran after Washington announced a new arms package for Taipei.
Likewise, China may have chosen to cut back its leverage in North Korea’s denuclearization in an effort to win limits on US arms sales to Taiwan, the report says.
“Periodically, China has tried to link the issues of missile proliferation and US conventional arms sales for Taiwan’s self defense,” the report says.
It says that the US Congress has “exercised oversight” of White House responses to any direct or indirect linkage.
However, it says that during a 1998 summit in Beijing, the former US president Bill Clinton administration reportedly “considered” a People’s Republic of China request for a US pledge to deny missile defense sales to Taiwan, if China promised to stop missile sales to Iran.
No agreement was reached on this arrangement.
“For many years, the US has faced challenges in getting China’s responsible cooperation in international nonproliferation problems, while continuing US policy toward Taiwan as governed by US interests and the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA),” the report says.
The report says that some experts argue that including China in efforts to strengthen international nonproliferation regimes “would capitalize on its desire to be treated as a ‘great power’ and to be perceived as a responsible world leader.”
Other experts said that China’s participation would risk its obstruction of tighter export controls, possible derailing of arms control efforts and “linkage of nonproliferation issues to the Taiwan issue.”
“One basis for this view,” the report says, “is the experience with the Arms Control in the Middle East effort in the early 1990s in which China refused to cover missiles in the effort and later suspended its participation after then-US president George H.W. Bush decided in 1992 to sell Taiwan F-16 fighters.”