Proliferation Press

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

Posts Tagged ‘China’

China-Pakistan Deal Pushes Forward Without the NSG: Is This Something to Worry About?

Posted by K.E. White on June 27, 2011

No, but others disagree.

A fellow law student, Matthew F. Ferraro, at Flashpoint (A Blog of The Diplomat Magazine) discusses two recent–and in his view troubling–nuclear moves by China.  Ferraro frets over (1) China’s pending nuclear deal with Pakistan and (2) Chinese refusal to allow India to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group.  While he doesn’t offer a solution to the perceived second problem, he suggests an intriguing idea for the first:  have the NSG push for a de facto waiver by lobbying China to accept a NSG declaration welcoming the deal and emphasizing that all nuclear facilities under it will be under IAEA restrictions.

While thoughtful and original piece, Ferraro’s ‘solution’ is impractical, and–if pursued–would risk dealing a fatal blow ever getting Pakistan in the nuclear fold and needlessly alienate China.

(And did I mention that pursuing this de facto waiver would futher strain America’s relationship with Pakistan?)

There are a five points to bring-up that in my view represent critical omissions/miscues on the article:

(1)  The US-India nuclear deal was a bum deal, but we’re sticking to it.  The United States actively lobbied the NSG to grant a ‘waiver’, in return for a new, strategic relationship with India.  And for what (primary) reason?  To corner China.  What did we actually get?  (1) International criticism; (2) India getting even more nuclear deals with Russia and France; (3) and India not really pinning China down.  And how do you think the United States (tacitly) got China’s approval on this waiver?  Probably a guarantee not to hold up (oh wait it can’t) complain about a nuclear deal with Pakistan.

(2)  China’s deal with Pakistan is not illegal.  Ferraro states refers to this deal as “China’s illicit sale”, but it’s not illicit.  The NSG terms are voluntary.  This is a crucial point that undermines the basis of the entire article:  China isn’t breaking its international commitments.  Yes, the NSG  could kick out China, which would then (pretty much) destroy the very reason for the NSG to exist.  But there’s an important difference between a ‘breach’ of a voluntary agreement, and violating international law.  This may seem silly semantics, but the NSG is voluntary exactly so it’s members can show the flexibility necessary to deal with nuclear commerce issues.  In fact, with an issue as sensitive as nuclear commerce, this flexibility is needed.

(3)  Is the United States really all  that upset?  Sorry to call me a skeptic, but the U.S. knew this day was coming.  Giving India a nuclear pass meant that India would get one as well.  Furthermore, at a time when U.S.-Pakistan are both vital and troubled, I think the U.S. may actually be thankful for this deal in the long-term.  Pakistan already has nukes; the United States can’t give any nuclear carrots (for domestic and external reasons); at least China can give tools, IAEA assurances, and perhaps a road to bringing Pakistan into the nuclear fold.

The critical point:  The United States can’t bring Pakistan into the nuclear fold alone; it will need China, and to get that support, the United States will have to deal with China keep Pakistan a strategic partner.

(4)  Ferraro’s solution sounds great, but spells trouble.  This isn’t the way to go.  If India was kicking and screaming about NSG approval of the U.S.-India deal, the NSG injecting itself into a bilateral agreement without China’s approval is fool-hearty at best, stupid at worst.  First, China won’t vote for it–hence, it won’t pass.  Result:  the NSG looks completely helpless, and antagonizes China.  Critical point:  China’s timing of this deal has as much to do with helping itself, as helping the other NSG members swallow the deal.  Second, it pushes Pakistan even further away from coming into the nuclear fold–like eventually signing the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

The NSG focusing even more attention on this matter will (1) likely fail and (2)  alienate China and Pakistan.  At at time when having India and Pakistan sign the NPT (less likely) or Conventional Test Ban Treaty (more likely medium-term) is far more important than bellyaching Pakistan nuclear deal, the NSG pursuing a de facto waiver seems a dangerous waste of time.

(5)  Thank God China’s blocking India’s NSG bid!  Ferraro leaves this point in left field, mentioning it but not explaining why it’s bad.  I assume Ferraro believes bringing India into the NSG is a nonproliferation ‘win’.  But that seems a rather dubious proposition.  Opening the doors to India inevitably opens question about permitting Pakistan and Israel into a club.  Great, let’s dominant all NSG discussion over member instead of getting the current members on the same page on nuclear policy.   (If you couldn’t guess, I believe this is a bad idea.).

Conclusion:  The Deal Is Happening, and It’s a Good Thing–But What Comes Next?

Ferraro basically sees the ‘bad’ in the China-Pakistan deal, without looking to the hard realities of today’s nuclear diplomacy.  Now admittedly, perhaps I’m to quick to give China a pass-a position Ashley J. Tellis would no doubt agree with me on.  (Note:  Tellis gives more background on the China-Pakistan nuke deal’s differences from the U.S.-India deal and how China justifies the deal).

But, overall, I still believe the United States should quietly be pleased with China’s moves.  The real question wasn’t if this move was going to happen, but (1) how it was executed and (2) how it would be used in the future to mold Pakistan’s nuclear practices.  China’s actions are actually containing the fall-out from America’s past breach of nuclear norms.  Is China getting a benefit?  Sure.  But when it comes to the nonproliferation agenda, all goodies that America gets, China and Russia will get.  At least China using its nuclear card prudently, quietly, and in way that helps maintain international stability, helps American diplomacy, and–most importantly to those concerned with nuclear proliferation–generates to a new lever to pressure Pakistan on nonproliferation issues.

But the real question of how the U.S., China, and Russia can use this lever to push a nonproliferation agenda, within their already crowded priority agendas, is too early to answer.

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Posted in Nuclear Deal | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Economist Slams the China-Pakistan Nuclear Deal

Posted by K.E. White on June 30, 2010

While dated, the Economist’s editorial on the China-Pakistan nuclear deal remains a must-read.

But I’ll ring one optimistic tone:  with the US and China now both active nuclear patrons to non-NPT parties–not to mention others–there may be more support among the nuclear powers to tighten safeguards in the future.

Why?  They’ll all want cover in the event of a nuclear crisis.  This has particular resonance in Pakistan.

Perhaps the US offering their own deal is just the cross-cutting engagement that can secure Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure?

To key parts from The Economist’s editorial:

America argued that India had a spotless non-proliferation record (it doesn’t) and that bringing it into the non-proliferation “mainstream” could only bolster global anti-proliferation efforts (it didn’t). The deal incensed not just China and Pakistan but many others, inside and outside the NSG. An immediate casualty was the effort to get all members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), who have already promised not to seek the bomb, to sign up to an additional protocol on toughened safeguards. Many have, but on hearing of the America-India deal Brazil’s president is reputed to have flatly ruled that out. And where Brazil has put its foot down, others have also hesitated.

What particularly riles outsiders is that America did not get anything much out of India in return. It did not win backing for new anti-proliferation obligations, such as a legally binding test ban or for an end to the further production of fissile uranium or plutonium for bombs. India has since designated some of its reactors as civilian, and open to inspection, but others still churn out spent fuel richly laden with weapons-usable plutonium. India can potentially make even more of the stuff. Now that it can import uranium fuel for its civilian reactors, it can devote more of its scarce domestic supplies to bomb-making.

If Pakistan really is worried about India’s growing nuclear arsenal, diplomacy might work better than an arms race. George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment, a think tank, says Pakistan should lift its veto on a ban on the production of fissile materials for bombs. That would put India (which claims to support a ban) on the spot. Like enriched uranium, hypocrisy can be costlier than it seems.

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

NSG To Take Up China-Pakistan Nuke Deal at Christchurch

Posted by K.E. White on June 22, 2010

The Times of India points out a crucial difference between China’s planned nuclear deal with Pakistan and the US-India nuclear deal:

In Christchurch, above, the NSG will meet and discuss the China-Pakistan nuclear deal.

On the basis of previous Chinese statements, the United States is expected to argue that the supply of additional power reactors would not be grandfathered. In that sense, the Christchurch meeting will demonstrate how far China is prepared to abide by its commitments to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the NSG guidelines.

The Indian example is not a precedent since India’s exemption had to go through the US legislative scrutiny and the NSG exemption. Pakistan cannot compare its non-proliferation record with that of India. The exoneration of A Q Khan by the judiciary of charges of unauthorized nuclear trade clearly implies that Pakistani proliferation had the approval of successive governments in Islamabad. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is still to get access to Khan. The proliferation, Iran being uppermost in international concern, started with a Pakistani deal with that country.

Stuff.co.nz—offering an excellent recap–suggests China will probably get its way:

The Times of India newspaper reported that the growing “clout” of China internationally meant there had been a lot of grumbling, “but little outright opposition” to the Pakistan proposal, though France was likely to raise objections at the New Zealand meeting.

It said the row could also spell trouble for India’s ambition to become a full member of the NSG, as there was a “growing anger, albeit impotent” within the group over the Chinese move.

China was unlikely to ask for a full waiver for the Pakistan proposal from the NSG but push it through “under a kind of diplomatic amnesia because there is a paper trail that says only two reactors in Pakistan had been `grandfathered’ by China”, the paper said.

Finally, Zia Mian and Daryl G. Kimball urge NSG members to resist endorsing China’s nuclear deal.

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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 »

Containing North Korea: Gordon Chang Calls for Interdiction Now

Posted by K.E. White on July 1, 2009

Today’s Wall Street Journal features Gordon G. Chang’s call for the United States to start interdicting suspected North Korean weapons shipments now. Instead of seeking accommodation with China and obtaining a new U.N. resolution on the matter, Chang argues America already has full authority to stop, inspect and seize North Korean weapons exports.

Yesterday, the North Korean ship Kang Nam–suspected of carrying weapons and thus bringing the interdiction issue to the forefront–turned around. Whether this event reflects the effectiveness of current sanctions, or merely a delaying tactic on the part of North Korea has yet to been seen.

(Backgrounder: The latest UN Security Resolution, passed June 12th after North Korea’s second nuclear test, requires permission of the “flag state” [i.e. the nation that exercises regulatory control of a commercial vessel] for any inspection. Chang gets around this by pointing out that Kim Jong-Il has withdrawn from the Korean War Armistice Agreement on May 29th, returning America and North Korea back to a state of war.)

North Korea is yet again testing the international community’s resolve. Should America go it alone, as Chang suggests? Or is Chinese support required for any North Korean interdiction policy to be effective?

Below is a section of Chang’s editorial, followed by David Sanger’s June 7th New York Times report exploring Obamaland’s weighing of the interdiction option—highlighting China’s thorny middle-ground position of wishing to contain North Korea proliferation, but not destabilizing the North Korean regime.

From Chang’s editorial How To Stop North Korea’s Weapons Proliferation:

Furthermore, there has never been a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War. This means the U.S., a combatant in the conflict, as leader of the U.N. Command, is free to use force against Pyongyang. On legal grounds, the U.S. Navy therefore has every right to seize the Kang Nam, treat the crew as prisoners of war, and confiscate its cargo, even if the ship is carrying nothing more dangerous than melons. Because the Navy has the right to torpedo the vessel, which proudly flies the flag of another combatant in the war, it of course has the right to board her.

The lesson of the last few years is that the U.N. is not capable of stopping North Korean proliferation. No nation can stop it except the U.S. Of course, ending North Korea’s sales of dangerous technologies to hostile regimes will anger Pyongyang. This month, for instance, the North said that interception of the Kang Nam would constitute an “act of war.”

Yet, as much as the international community would like to avoid a confrontation, the world cannot let Kim Jong Il continue to proliferate weapons. Moreover, it is unlikely that he will carry through on his blustery threats. The North Koreans did not in fact start a war when, at America’s request, Spain’s special forces intercepted an unflagged North Korean freighter carrying Scud missiles bound for Yemen in December 2002. Even though the Spanish risked lives to board the vessel, Washington soon asked Madrid to release it. At the time, the Bush administration explained there was no legal justification to seize the missiles.

Now, the Obama administration has no such excuse. There is definitely a legal justification to seize the Kang Nam. North Korea, after all, has resumed the Korean War.

And from David Sanger’s June 7th NYTimes report:

In conducting any interdictions, the United States could risk open confrontation with North Korea. That prospect — and the likelihood of escalating conflict if the North resisted an inspection — is why China has balked at American proposals for a resolution by the United Nations Security Council that would explicitly allow interceptions at sea. A previous Security Council resolution, passed after the North’s first nuclear test, in 2006, allowed interdictions “consistent with international law.” But that term was never defined, and few of the provisions were enforced.

North Korea has repeatedly said it would regard any interdiction as an act of war, and officials in Washington have been trying to find ways to stop the shipments without a conflict. Late last week, James B. Steinberg, the deputy secretary of state, visited Beijing with a delegation of American officials, seeking ideas from China about sanctions, including financial pressure, that might force North Korea to change direction.

“The Chinese face a dilemma that they have always faced,” a senior administration official said. “They don’t want North Korea to become a full nuclear weapons state. But they don’t want to cause the state to collapse.” They have been walking a fine line, the official said, taking a tough position against the North of late, but unwilling to publicly embrace steps that would put China in America’s camp.

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Critical Mass: News from Around the Web

Posted by K.E. White on June 30, 2009

BBCNews on-line reports on the stifled diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program. Interesting highlight: “Currently [Iran] is under inspection by the IAEA, which has stated that there has been no diversion of inspected materials to any secret programme.”

Still dealing with the AQ Khan Network: Switzerland destroys nuclear documents from the illicit nuclear ring.

The Taliban have abrogated all peace deals with Pakistan. And C. Christine Fair insists that the key to stability in Iraq is an effective Pakistani police-force: “[T]he army can’t fix what ails the nation…The army’s past and recent track record in clearing and holding territory is not encouraging.”

Reuters probes China’s rhetorical shift on North Korea. Don’t expect any big policy changes, but China could be laying the ground work for bigger changes down the road: “…the overt expression of disenchantment suggests the Chinese government wants to prepare public opinion for harsher policies toward a country long lauded as a plucky communist friend.”

PONI launches Fissile Material—and today’s round-up is a must-read. Particular thanks for highlighting former UN inspector Charles A. Duelfer’s editorial on weapons inspections and the nuclear dilemmas of North Korea and Iran: “From the experience in Iraq, we have seen the ability of the international community to hide behind inspectors in some circumstances and to expect too much from them in others.”

Peter Wehner slams Obama for contradictory responses to developments in Honduras and Iran.

And check out Foreign Policy’s 2009 Failed State Index.

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Blog-On-Blog: Iran and China

Posted by K.E. White on June 26, 2009

Protests in Iran seem on the verge of being stamped out. But the question of these demonstrations effect has filled the web. Two interesting observations involve China: 1) Why is China reacting so cooly to events in Iran and 2) Will Iranian demonstrations follow Tienanmen Square’s trajectory?

FP’s offers this blog noting the age demographics of China and Iran from 1970-2020. The key point: Youngsters like to revolt (duh!). Current Iranian unrest and China’s ’89 protests both occurred during youth-bulges; and both occurred on the precipice of significant aging within the population. Tentative conclusion: Iran’s population will grow more compliant to their repressive regime.

(Update 12:37 pm- This Brookings op-ed delves a bit deeper into Iran’s youth-problems)

I don’t put too much stock in this age variable alone. Is it just a youth bulge? Is it a large number of ‘frustrated’ youth–i.e. men unable to get married; women hungry for great freedoms; or large numbers of unemployable–thus disaffected–college graduates of both genders? Or is it all these components together with a triggering event–perhaps a stolen election?)

But more important, in my mind, is this: of the many differences between China and Iran histories, regime type stands out. A key component of the Islamic state’s legitimacy–internally and externally–comes from its quasi-democratic practices. This does not negate Iran’s shift to a more authoritarian regime; but while today’s ‘youth-bulge’ recede, cynicism in a long-standing electoral process will leave a distinctive mark on Iran’s current regime.

The impact? We’ll have to wait and see. But it won’t simply be ’89 China redux.

And there’s this thought-provoking blog (James Fallows at The Atlantic) on China’s cool response to developments in Iran.

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Proliferation Press Round-Up: Cheney and Obama Butt Heads Over Torture and GITMO; PONI Gives START its Due; Obama Signs US-UAE Nuclear Deal; China Modernizes Its Nuclear Arsenal

Posted by K.E. White on May 22, 2009

P. Press verdict: With these considerable monitoring stipulations attached, DeThomas’ practicality wins out. While it would be preferable to grant American nuclear technology assistance by a generalizable formula applicable to all nations and keep all dangerous nuclear technology out of the Middle East, these are unrealistic policy positions.  With the NPT conference approaching and Iran’s continued nuclear defiance, strong inducements exist for America to showcase its commitment to assisting the peaceful spread of nuclear technology—especially to nations in the Middle East.

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Afternoon Tea: Holbrooke Goes Big; Thank Bush for Obama! (?); Fight Over America’s Future; Pakistan’s Still A Mess; Don’t Do This On The Queen’s Lawn and Other Exciting News

Posted by K.E. White on April 30, 2009

Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke’s Fat and Free-Wheeling Flotilla At State

Thank you President Bush! Obama’s First 100 Days

Lind vs. Bacevich on ‘The American Century’: Hello again United States of Ponzi? Or Good-Bye and Good Riddance?

While the Pakistani counter-extremist military operations appear successful, will their restraint just set in motion future déjà vu? The Economist probes Pakistani motivations, warning American officials not to harbor false hopes of a paradigm shift in Pakistan’s security outlook. (And yes, Obama meant it when he pledged assistance last night)

And in other news…

China and Japan wrap up their two-day meeting; China signals long road ahead on North Korea. And get to know the Chinese power couple ready to take the dollar down.

‘Ice, Ice Baby’: Russia puts talks of militarizing Antarctica on ice. But gets tough on pork and pirates!

US Attorney General Holder asks for European help to shut down Gitmo in Berlin.

The Dutch get tough on teens.

And what not to do on the Queen’s lawn.

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Updates from Around The Web

Posted by K.E. White on March 15, 2009

Pakistan’s a mess; check out this Proliferation Press post and get up-to-the-minute news from Dawn, a leading Pakistani newspaper.

Nuclear optimism: Michael Krepon gives us five reasons to not fear the bomb, or at least as much as some think we should.

Graham Allison strokes our nuclear anxieties while calling for a new science of nuclear forensics in Newsweek.

And, in financial news, the world’s leading economies agreed to increase funds to the IMF—a positive sign of economic cooperation. But real divides remain between Europe and the United States over the proper response to current economic woes.

China and Iran have signed a $3.2 billion natural gas deal.

And Viktor Bout–aka ‘Merchant of Death’ and inspiration for the film ‘Lord of War’–gives his first interview since being arrested last year in Bangkok by American agents. His charge? Supplying weapons to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.  His reaction to the charges: “lies and bullshit”.

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