Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Archive for the ‘China’ Category

China-Pakistan Nuclear Deal

Posted by K.E. White on June 6, 2010

Fall-out from the U.S.-India nuclear deal?  Foreign Policy offers this article by Mark Hibbs.

Posted in China, Nuclear Deal, Pakistan | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Pakistan Makes Its Own Nuclear Move

Posted by K.E. White on September 19, 2008

Business Standard reports on the liklihood of Pakistan–in clear reaction to the US-India nuclear deal–pushing for a nuclear deal with China. 

In its bid to offset the impact of Indo-US nuclear deal, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will take up the acquisition of nuclear fuel technology from China during his forthcoming visit.

The Pakistan government has decided to set up two nuclear power plants worth Rs 139 billion to overcome the country’s energy crisis, official sources were quoted as saying by the Aaj Kal Urdu daily.

Zardari, who is expected to visit China in the near future, will discuss the acquisition of fuel technology for the two new plants with the Chinese leadership, the sources said.

While one may consider India a prime candidate for nuclear commerce, many of its attributes–steady regime, peaceful political turnovers, even accepting terrorism probelms–Pakistan’s regimes have not shown themselves durable. While jockeying between weak deomcratic regimes and strong-man dictatorships, expanding Pakistan’s nuclear arsneal and power facilities comes with additional headaches: abrupt regime change and the real and potent presence of radical Islamic terror-groups.

Time will shown if Pakistan’s newly elected President and re-charged (if unity-less) Paraliament can foster the stability, liberalism and security so lacking in Pakistan’s recent past. And–addressing worse-case scenarios–the Pakastani military has shown strong and responsible control over Pakistan’s nuclear hardware. But Pakistan’s four-pronged pressures–economic woes, Kashmir, periodic political upheaval and the worrisome presence & support of Islamic terrorism–keep international concern over this country at a high level.

Posted in China, Diplomacy, India, Nuclear, Pakistan, U.S. India Nuclear Deal, WMD | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Australia’s Nuclear Evolution: CNS Investigates the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone and Australia’s Current Stance Towards Uranium Sales to India

Posted by K.E. White on August 30, 2007

Summary: Sizes up a short report by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Is Australia violating a treaty—the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone—if it goes ahead with plans to sell India uranium? CNS probes this question, suggesting there is reason to think so. Proliferation Press looks into the question, and finds that it seems Australia is 1) not violating the treaty and 2) would actually go against the spirit of the treaty by refusing to approve the US-India nuclear deal at the upcoming meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. But all this analysis merely displays how much the treaty regime depends on the policies of the announced nuclear powers.

The Center of Nonproliferation Studies is running this interesting report studying whether or not Australia would violate international law if it goes through with plans to sell uranium to India.

The South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone (SPNFZ) reads, in part:

Each Party undertakes:

(a) not to provide source or special fissionable material, or equipment or material especially designed or prepared for the processing, use or production of special fissionable material for peaceful purposes to:

(i) any non-nuclear-weapon State unless subject to the safeguards required by Article III.1 of the NPT [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty], or

(ii) any nuclear-weapon State unless subject to applicable safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Any such provisions shall be in accordance with strict non-proliferation measures to provide assurance of exclusively peaceful non-explosive use;

(b) to support the continued effectiveness of the international non-proliferation system based on the NPT and the IAEA safeguards system.

Now while the CNS report shows well that Australian officials saw, in the past, the SPNFZ as barring uranium sales to India, the report does not take a definitive stance:

If Australia is legally barred from nuclear trade with India in light of the statements of the Foreign Affairs Department, for Australia to vote in favor of ending the Nuclear Suppliers Group embargo would be to authorize others to do what it cannot under the South Pacific treaty. This might be seen as violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone pact.

Yes, if Australia is “legally barred” from a certain act and then does it—it broke the treaty.

But is Australia breaking the treaty? Australia is obliged “not to provide source of special fissionable material” unless one of two conditions are met. The first condition requires NPT safeguards to be met. This would seem impossible since India is not even a member of the NPT.

But the second condition states:

“any nuclear-weapon State unless subject to applicable safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).”

The IAEA endorsed the US-India nuclear deal, or at least their head ELBaradei:

“This agreement is an important step towards satisfying India´s growing need for energy, including nuclear technology and fuel, as an engine for development. It would also bring India closer as an important partner in the non-proliferation regime,” he said. “It would be a milestone, timely for ongoing efforts to consolidate the non-proliferation regime, combat nuclear terrorism and strengthen nuclear safety.”

“The agreement would assure India of reliable access to nuclear technology and nuclear fuel. It would also be a step forward towards universalisation of the international safeguards regime,” Dr. ElBaradei said. “This agreement would serve the interests of both India and the international community.”

As such the IAEA governing board will have to improve inspections of India’s nuclear sites. Now while this might not be finalized when Australia votes on the US-India nuclear deal at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), any ‘yes’ vote at the NSG will be premised on successfully completed IAEA negotiations.

Rediff looks into this “long and hazardous” process of gaining dual approval from the NSG and IAEA:

The negotiations on an India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA Governing Board and talks with members of the NSG to seek an exception for India are likely to be long and hazardous. The United States has considerable influence in the IAEA Board and, as the founder of the NSG it has the necessary clout to determine the outcome of the informal group. But, over the years, positions of individual countries have crystallized in these bodies and they are likely to give us a hard time despite the US being our ‘sherpa’ on the climb.

It would seem India 1) getting the blessing of the IAEA chief and 2) undergoing IAEA approval could be read as being “subject to applicable safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

And what is the intent of these two SPNFZ exceptions? “[T]o support the continued effectiveness of the international non-proliferation system based on the NPT and the IAEA safeguards system.”

It would seem approving a deal that America (a leading, recognized nuclear power under the NPT) is vying for meets that intent.

Now could a new American president change this calculus? Yes. The point here, though, is that it seems any hard prohibition against Australia selling uranium to India appears to stand on weak foundations.

The CNS report, while not taking a firm stand but simply highlighting past views of Australian officials, suggests Australia has reason to vote against the US-India nuclear during the NSG meeting. But it seems there is more reason—given current IAEA approval, apparent backing from Russia and China, and ongoing IAEA deliberations—that Australia voting against the US-India nuclear deal might do more harm to nonproliferation aims.

Posted in America, Australia, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, China, ElBaradei, IAEA, Leah Kuchinsky, Leonard S. Spector, South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone, U.S. India Nuclear Deal, US | Leave a Comment »

China’s Take on the US-India Nuclear Deal

Posted by K.E. White on August 29, 2007

Below are two takes on China feelings toward the troubled US-India nuclear deal. Both articles reveal the complicated relations between both India and the United States, and India and China.

Why would China be bothered by the US-India nuclear deal? If India takes an American tilt owing to America’s ad hoc sanctioning of their nuclear arsenal, China could feel entrapped. To the east China will face remilitarizing Japan, and now an emerging regional power to its west.

But in a post-Cold War world, dividing the world in pro-US and pro-China camps doesn’t get you very far. Perhaps a more appropriate view would be a four-layered approach: looking at the tensions between India and Pakistan, and then how those tensions interact with those nations’ relationships with China and America.

Reuters reports on Chinese approval of the US-India nuclear deal, in order not to alienate India:

However, experts said China was unlikely to stymie the nuclear deal and risk pushing Delhi closer to Washington — just when Beijing is seeking to avoid a destabilizing confrontation with its rising Asian neighbor and longtime rival.

“The United States has decided that using India to check and balance China is of more importance than non-proliferation, and that worries China,” said Shen Dingli, a nuclear security expert at Fudan University in Shanghai.

“But China does not want to push India towards the United States. I don’t think China will stand out to oppose the agreement; it doesn’t want to offend the United States or India.”

“But out of its own strategic interests, India is most unlikely to form an alliance with the U.S. to contain China.”

As it seeks to sway New Delhi, Beijing is instead likely to promote its own civilian nuclear technology. When President Hu Jintao visited India in November last year, he pitched for such cooperation.

But China is also likely to seek expanded nuclear cooperation with India’s rival, Pakistan, where Beijing has already helped build an atomic reactor — and it will be able to point to the U.S.-India deal to counter any criticism, said Shen.

From the Times of India is this take by K Subrahmanyam:

China’s strategy does not appear to be one of direct confrontation with India. By arming Pakistan with nuclear weapons, China is using Islamabad to counter India. This was noted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his address to the Combined Commanders Conference on October 20, 2005 when he said: “We cannot also ignore the strategic cooperation that Pakistan secured from China in many ways. We cannot rule out the desire of some countries to keep us engaged in low-intensity conflict with some of our neighbours as a means of getting India bogged down in a low equilibrium”.

The Chinese strategy of dominating Asia, which all other major powers view with concern, needs India to be kept tied down perpetually by a nuclear-armed Pakistan. The reason why liberating India from technology apartheid sponsored by the US is popular with Russia, France, UK, France and Japan is their desire to see a balance of power in Asia. In the 21st century it is not envisaged there will be wars among major powers. But there would be a constant balancing of power. China when fully developed can only be balanced by a billion-strong India if it develops itself. The other major powers of the world have a vital interest in this. Hence, the US nuclear agreement, India-specific IAEA safeguards and NSG waiver.

Will India accept this opportunity and help the world to balance China — a neighbour posing a surrogate nuclear threat to this country — or continue to talk only of US imperialism? India can stand up to US dominance, but it cannot wish away the India-specific nuclear threat emanating from a Chinese-armed Pakistan.

These two views on China show how many variables must be weighed by these four nations’ leaders when juggling diplomatic relations. Is Pakistan a Chinese-backed threat to India, or an emerging moderate stated owing to American pressure? Or both?

What does seem clear is that Pakistan is the most volatile part of the equation. If America can successfully bring on a moderating, democratic and peaceful (or just those tail-ends) Pakistan, the security calculus in the region dramatically changes.

Posted in America, China, Diplomacy, India, K Subrahmanyam, Nuclear, Pakistan, U.S. India Nuclear Deal | Leave a Comment »

China Diplomacy Update: US Congressional Delegation Touts Chinese Military Transparency, China Reaffirms ‘No First Use’ of Nuclear Arsenal. Meanwhile, Merkel Urges Greater Press Freedoms in China

Posted by K.E. White on August 28, 2007

Summary: Congress tours China, praising the nation’s military transparency and getting briefed on that nation’s nuclear policy. Meanwhile German Chancellor Merkel takes stands up for freedom of the press during her own trip to China.Ike Skelton

A Congressional delegation headed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) is touring Chinese military facilities. The results from the on-going visit, which kicked off in Guam last Friday, seem encouraging.

(Added note: Members of the delegation include Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), Randy Forbes (R-VA), John Spratt (D-SC), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH).

The Guardian reports on the visit:

“Thus far we’ve received very candid answers about the capability of their military, they seem to be hiding nothing in our discussions with them.

“I think it’s beneficial to both China and the United States that there be strong military-to-military exchanges, that lowers possibility of misunderstanding, of lack of understanding of the other national security forces,” he told The Associated Press.

The group of lawmakers has met with several Chinese officials and toured a naval destroyer at a base in Qingdao in northeastern China. On Monday, they were to visit China’s military sciences academy and the No. 2 artillery division, which controls China’s nuclear and conventional missile forces.

They would also hold talks with Wu Bangguo, the head of China’s legislature and the Communist Party’s No. 2 ranking official.

In June, Skelton and the Pentagon accused the Chinese military of intentionally understating what it spends on military programs. Its official defense budget for this year is about $45 billion, but the “real” budget is between $85 billion and $125 billion, Skelton said then.

And reports on China reaffirming their ‘no first use’ nuclear policy:

A senior officer of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said on Monday that China is ready to deepen exchanges and cooperation with US armed forces.

Jing Zhiyuan, commander of the PLA’s Second Artillery Force, made the remarks when he met with Ike Skelton, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee of the US House of Representatives.

“China holds a positive attitude toward the development of ties between the two armed forces. My country is willing to make joint efforts with the US side to push forward exchanges and cooperation,” Jing told Skelton and his delegation.

Jing also briefed Skelton on China’s nuclear policy and strategy and the construction and application of nuclear forces.

“China’s policy of ‘No first use of nuclear weapons at any time under any circumstances’ is firm and consistent, and will never be changed,” Jing added.

And German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also touring China:

Angela Merkel

On her second full day in China, German Chancellor Angela Merkel conferred with

opposition journalists. She reminded Beijing that the West would like to see progress on freedom of the press and other human rights issues.

Merkel began Tuesday by meeting with representatives of the Chinese media — including four prominent figures critical of the government in Beijing. The meeting was a signal of Germany’s support for more press freedom in China.

Li Datong, the former publisher of a supplement to the China Youth Daily newspaper, was full of praise for Merkel.

“The meeting shows that the chancellor attaches great significance to democracy and freedom of speech in China,” Li told German news agency DPA.

Posted in Angela Merkel, Carol Shea-Porter, China, Congressional delegation, Ike Skelton, Jeff Flake, Jing Zhiyuan, John Spratt, Li Datong, Madeleine Bordallo, no first use, Nuclear, Randy Forbes, United States | Leave a Comment »

US-India Nuclear Deal: Nuclear Diplomacy Between the US and China

Posted by K.E. White on August 23, 2007

Summary: Carl Robichaud details the looming conflict between America and China when the US-India nuclear deal comes up at the Nuclear Suppliers Group. China’s apparent approval of the deal rests on a key condition: that NSG regulations regarding undeclared nuclear states (India, Israel and Pakistan) be standardized. Naturally America would prefer an India exception—as to open the flood gates to other, less desired nuclear cooperation between nation-states.

From the World Politics Review

A deal that brings India into the nuclear fold — giving India access to technology and fuel in return for enhanced oversight of its activities — is not a bad idea per se. But the current deal is a loser because it carves out an exception rather than undergirding these changes in rules and standards of general applicability. Perhaps under a different American leader the pact might be perceived more positively, but in the context of the Bush administration’s six-year subversion of the rules-based international order, allies and adversaries alike see it as nothing more than another example of American “exemptionalism.”

The alternative, which China has proposed, is revising the NSG to include a set of criteria that any undeclared nuclear states (read: Israel and Pakistan) could aspire to meet. China’s motives may be transparent — if Washington wants to open the floodgates, Beijing insists on the chance to do the same — but the underlying principles are sound: a “criteria based” approach, applied stringently, would enhance the legitimacy of the NSG regime and would provide incentives for bringing the Pakistani program out of the shadows.

Any attempt to pressure the NSG to create an “India loophole” is likely to backfire. Michael Krepon of the Stimson Center has observed that “One key assumption behind the deal is especially important — that the relaxation of nuclear export controls can be confined to India alone. If this assumption is wrong, downside proliferation risks will be open-ended.” Bending the rules to benefit an ally would undermine the universality of nonproliferation principles at a time when America needs them most. Without adherence to a rules-based system, there is little hope of assembling the sort of broad-based coalition necessary to impede Iran’s march toward nuclearization or to roll back North Korea’s program.

Posted in China, Michael Krepon, U.S. India Nuclear Deal, United States | Leave a Comment »

Russia Update: Still Denying Blame for the Georgia Missile Flap; Russia Expels British Diplomats; Joint China-Russia Terror Exercise Performed

Posted by K.E. White on August 22, 2007

Summary: The bear is roaring in Russia. Russia is maintaining its hard-line stance in Georgia and on the Alexander Litvinenko murder. The reason? Russia is reasserting its diplomatic weight. And, in even more SCO news, China and Russia hold their first joint terror drills.

Two independent groups agree with Georgia in the missile dispute between Russia and Georgia.

But, if accurate, what was the rationale for this peculiar action?

The most recent PINR report delves into this issue. Seeing Georgia as a “catalyst of Russo-Western tensions in the wider Black Sea region” Dr. Federico Bordonaro confirms the ‘missile’ verdict: finding Russia guilty of violating Georgian airspace.

The reason? Push back against Western influence in the region. Russia has taken harder positions on Kosovo and US-backed plans for a European missile shield. There seems to be a battle for influence: with Russia preferring OSCE to be the central playing ground in Europe, not NATO. The reason? Russia’s veto power in OSCE. The Western preference is NATO, naturally.

From the PINR report:

The timing of the incident also raises questions. Russia is saber-rattling: strategic bombers are now regularly flying again beyond Russian airspace, like in the Cold War years; military expenses are on the rise; Moscowannounced a moratorium on the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty and openly accuses\nWashington of unilaterally destroying the\nEuropean strategic balance by setting up a B.M.D.\nsystem without consulting Russia. At the same\ntime, the Kremlin has adopted rigid stances on\nKosovo, Transnistria, and Georgia. The impression is that Russia wants to\nreposition itself clearly as a re-established\nglobal power before the United States elects a\nnew president in the fall of 2008. American\npre-election tactics, Washington’s difficult\nMiddle East campaign, and high oil and gas prices\ngive Russia an opportunity to accelerate its\ncomeback. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that\nMoscow will seek an extreme diplomatic crisis\nwith Washington in the coming months and years.\nInstead, it will presumably formulate a broad\nproposal, designed to re-negotiate its strategic\nrelations with the West. Briefly said, Russia\nwants to re-negotiate what it had to do in\n1990-1992 from a weak position, during its deep\npolitical, economic, and military crisis that\nfollowed the perestroika years. The Tsitelubani incident\nand the following inquiry have some important\nramifications and implications for both global\nand regional actors. The U.S. and E.U. low-key\nprotests signal the weakness of the Euro-Atlantic\nalliance at this moment. Apart from some\nsensationalist articles in the press, which try\nto validate the theory of a full-blown neo-Cold\nWar, Western diplomatic reactions have been\ncautious. Western divisions, which\nstem from the different security and strategic\ncultures in Europe and the United States,\ncontinue to hamper the birth of a comprehensive\nAtlantic geostrategy in the wider Black Sea\nregion — notwithstanding the sea of printed\nproposals and studies on the issue. Russia is\nsuccessfully exploiting such a void, especially\nat a time of U.S. fatigue in the Middle East and\nAfghanistan. As a consequence of such\nWestern tactical difficulties and strategic\ndilemmas, Russia will remain confident and at\ntimes threatening in the South Caucasus, despite\ninternational condemnation for actions such as\nthose carried out in Upper Kodori or South\nOssetia.”, and openly accuses Washington of unilaterally destroying the European strategic balance by setting up a B.M.D. system without consulting Russia. At the same time, the Kremlin has adopted rigid stances on Kosovo, Transnistria, and Georgia.

The results of the missile incident’s ongoing inquiry appear to contradict Russian claims and will presumably augment Moscow’s negative image among Euro-Atlantic decision-makers. However, this seems to be a calculated risk by Russia. At the moment, the Kremlin gives less importance to its international image than to its ability to put pressure on some geostrategic hotspots.

Driving a wedge between pro-Western elites in former Soviet states and the enlarged N.A.T.O. is critical for Russia’s geopolitical interests. Therefore, look for Moscow to insist on a series of negotiations on the wider Black Sea region’s frozen conflicts and Kosovo, which will seek to secure Russian interests and influence. The and E.U. will now have to make a fundamental decision: either they opt for a harder stance and try to continue the expansion of the Euro-Atlantic geostrategic realm deep inside, or they will need to take Russian interests seriously. This latter possibility would mean that the broad arc of instability extending from Belarus to Central Asia through the wider Black Sea region will assume a bipolar structure (the Euro-Atlantic combine and Moscow being the two poles), where Russia will be able to project power and influence, notwithstanding the E.U. and N.A.T.O.’s enlargement.

Now an accommodation can be made, but the Russian broadcast is clear: Europe will have to take Russian interests into account.

In other news, China and Russia are conducting joint terrorism exercises next month in Moscow:

China‘s armed police and the interior forces of Russia will conduct for the first time a joint anti-terrorism drill in Moscow in early September.

“Cooperation 2007” will be the first international anti-terrorism exercise for China’s armed police outside the country.

The drill was in accordance with the principles of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and related agreements signed by the two countries, Xinhua news agency reported.

And remember the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko? Britain does. And Britain’s demand for answers continue to brew trouble against the countries. But fret not:

“I think British-Russian relations will develop normally. We are interested in the development of relations both from the Russian side and from the British,” Putin said on the sidelines of an ethnic festival in western Russia.

“I am sure that this mini-crisis will be overcome,” he added.

Posted in Alexander Litvinenko, Britain, China, Federico Bordonaro, Georgia, missile, NATO, OSCE, Putin, Russia, SCO | Leave a Comment »

Chinese Spies Released: What’s Behind the Timing?

Posted by K.E. White on August 21, 2007

Iran released two supposed Chinese spies yesterday. The Chinese explanation:

“In early July, two people from Chinese companies mistakenly took some pictures of some sensitive buildings when they were helping local owners to conduct field measurements in Iran,” China’s Foreign Ministry said.

“They were detained by Iranian police and now they have been freed,” the ministry said on a fax sent to Reuters. “Foreign Ministry and Chinese Embassy in Iran have warned Chinese citizens in Iran to behave so as to prevent misunderstandings.”

Proliferation Press blogged on this story earlier. But one question comes into sharper relief: Why did Iran wait until the S.C.O. summit to announce this arrest?

But while an answer to that question may never materialize, there’s always re-reading that priceless Chinese explanation.

Posted in China, Iran, Nuclear, spy | Leave a Comment »

China-Iran Spying Update: Did China Ignore an Earlier Warning? And the SCO Goes Off (At the United States) Without a Hitch.

Posted by K.E. White on August 17, 2007

Summary: No wonder Iran’s perturbed over the Chinese spying—they already sent them a warning. And the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit goes well, war games and all.

From the Daily Times:

Nine days before Iran announced it had arrested two Chinese nationals for taking photographs of military and nuclear installations, China’s foreign ministry had already warned its citizens not to photo sensitive subjects.

In a little noticed announcement on its website, the foreign ministry said the Iranian police had detained some Chinese on suspicion of spying because they did “not understand Iran’s national situation”. “They mistakenly photographed sensitive local political, economic and military areas,” it said, without providing details. “The Foreign Ministry’s consular section and the embassy in Iran remind Chinese going to Iran to strictly respect local laws and religious customs,” the statement said.

“Apart from obviously signed tourist areas, don’t take random pictures in the street to avoid creating trouble.” Reuters

And spying woes didn’t stop the SCO Summit from jabbering away:

Leaders issued a statement Thursday, at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, that was an apparent warning to the United States to stay away from the strategically placed, resource-rich region.

“Stability and security in Central Asia are best ensured primarily through efforts taken by the nations of the region on the basis of the existing regional associations,” the leaders said at the end of the organization’s summit in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Hu Jintao of China and leaders of four ex-Soviet Central Asian nations that are part of the SCO were all also set to attend Friday’s military exercises in the Chelyabinsk region in Russia’s Ural Mountains.

At the same time, China and Russia—under the SCO banner—staged their largest yet joint war games exercise. But Marcel de Haas tells Reuters this:

But the senior research fellow at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael said the SCO was unlikely to turn into an anti-Western club. “Russia wants to use the SCO for its anti-Western (aims) but the others will not allow it.”

But that won’t stop Russia from bring back Soviet-era bomber patrols.

Posted in China, Iran, Marcel de Haas, Russia, SCO, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, spying, war games | Leave a Comment »

Bad Timing: Iran Arrests Two Chinese Nuclear Spys During SCO Talks

Posted by K.E. White on August 16, 2007

Summary: Iran sends an arrestingly loud message to China over its nuclear program. And what perfect timing: the nations’ two leaders are in the middle of SCO summit talks. Coincidence? Probably not. Read for more on this spy game gone wrong, and a possibly emerging counterweight to NATO.

Could it be China and America see eye-to-eye on Iran?

Probably not. But one thing’s clear: China and America share a profound—dare say arresting—curiosity over Iran’s developing nuclear program.

From the International Herald Tribune:

Iran has detained two Chinese nationals on charges of spying on its military and nuclear facilities, a government spokesman said Wednesday.

Though such accusations against Westerners are common in Iran, the announcement is the first such charge against China, with which Iran usually enjoys good relations.

“The Chinese nationals were detained while taking photo and recording video tape of a military complex in Arak city,” judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi told reporters. “They entered Iran through Kish Island as tourists.”

How this story was buried below reports of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard becoming a “specially designated global terrorist” by the White House, one can only guess.

The Guardian teases out this additional tidbit of diplomatic gossip:

It is believed to be the first time any Chinese have been charged with espionage in the country. Oil-rich Iran has recently enjoyed good relations with China, which has resisted US-led attempts to impose harsher sanctions on Tehran for its nuclear programme.

But what both reports miss is the ongoing SCO summit that Iran and China are both attending. For that part of the story, let’s take a look at the current front page of the China Daily (which as of 10 pm EST does not mention the detention/espionage issue):

President Hu Jintao discussed the Iranian nuclear issue and bilateral ties with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Wednesday before the start of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit Thursday.Chinese President Hu Jintao Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Bishkek August 15, 2007

Hu said China is keen on resolving the nuclear issue through peaceful negotiations.

He said China understands Iran’s concerns but hopes the country shows flexibility for the peaceful settlement of the issue.

Ahmadinejad said that Iran will not go beyond international laws and regulations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in using nuclear energy.

Talk about bad timing.

What’s the SCO you ask? It’s a six-member energy policy forum consisting of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. But just read this tid-bit from a very useful PINR article by Dr. Marcel de Haas:

Considering these recent activities in different dimensions of security, is the S.C.O. developing into a “N.A.T.O. of the east” as it was regularly described after the anti-Western flavor of the 2005 Astana Summit? The S.C.O. still lacks a considerable number of essential elements which N.A.T.O., as a mature security organization, has: an integrated military structure with permanent headquarters, a rapid reaction force (N.A.T.O. Response Force), and continuous political deliberations. Moreover, S.C.O. member states and observers cooperate in many areas but also possess large differences, such as contradictory political and economic interests.

Nevertheless, in spite of these shortcomings, the last couple of years the S.C.O. has taken steps in intensified cooperation in a wide scope of security dimensions. This has occurred to such an extent that development toward a genuine security organization can no longer be excluded, although this still might take a considerable number of years. Although the West at present does not have anything to fear from the S.C.O., current developments might encourage the West to closely observe further activities of the grouping. In any case, the time has gone that Western security experts could depict the S.C.O. as simply one of many insignificant organizations in the Asia-Pacific region.

Iran is an observer nation to the evolving treaty. As such, the timing of the arrests—or merely their announcement—seems designed to send an embarrassingly loud and clear message to China: Iran’s nuclear program—and presumable secrets—are for her, and her alone.

Posted in China, Espionage, Hu Jintao, Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Marcel de Haas, Nuclear, PINR, SCO, Shanghai Cooperation Organization | Leave a Comment »