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China-Iran Weapons Sales Targeted

Filed at 2:21 p.m. EDT
October 7, 1997
By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Clinton administration should press China to stop selling any weapons to Iran before declaring the Chinese are cooperating on preventing the spread of nuclear arms, the chairman of a House committee said Tuesday.

President Clinton hopes to certify at his Oct. 29 summit with Chinese President Jiang Zemin that China has stopped helping other nations, particularly Iran and Pakistan, develop nuclear weapons. Such a declaration would allow the U.S. nuclear industry to sell multibillion-dollar reactors to China.

But many lawmakers want strict assurances China is no longer exporting nuclear technology that could be used militarily and that the communist nation isn't selling missiles or chemical and biological weapons.

``Our members need to know that China is engaging in responsible nonproliferation behavior across the board, including all weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons,'' said Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., chairman of the House International Relations Committee.

Gilman suggested the U.S. government use the promise of certification on the nuclear issue as leverage to obtain pledges from China to stop exporting missile components and other weapons to Iran, which the State Department declares is a terrorist state.

But Robert Gallucci, a former U.S. diplomat who negotiated the freeze of North Korea's nuclear weapons program, told Gilman's committee it would be unfair to put extra conditions on nuclear certification.

``You can't change the rules in the middle of the game,'' said Gallucci, now dean of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.

Instead, Gallucci suggested U.S. certification could be a step toward gaining future agreements with China to halt all its weapons sales to Iran and other nations considered rogue states. The United States also could deny export licences for U.S. nuclear technology to China if evidence surfaces the nation has violated its nonproliferation pledge.

No current U.S. officials testified before the committee.

The Clinton administration has said it has no evidence China has broken a renewed pledge of nuclear nonproliferation made in May 1996. U.S. officials also note the Chinese just issued export rules to prevent the spread of nuclear technology that could be diverted from peaceful to military uses.

Still, U.S. officials preparing for the Clinton-Jiang meeting insist no final decision has been made about whether to certify China. The administration is seeking guarantees that China will halt or suspend its nuclear cooperation with Iran and refuse to help Pakistan.

``A decision of this magnitude should not be driven by a desire of an administration to have a successful summit,'' Gilman cautioned.

Gilman warned that if the Clinton administration certifies China and lawmakers aren't satisfied the time is right, Congress would consider legislation to delay or place restrictions on U.S. nuclear sales.

Under a 1985 U.S.-China Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, the United States agreed to allow its nuclear industry to do business in China if the country agreed not to help other nations build the bomb. But Congress the next year required the president to first certify China was indeed complying.