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For release 5 March 2004

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William Burr: 202/994-7032

Declassified Documents Show That, For Over Fifteen Years,
Beijing Rebuffed U.S. Queries on Chinese Aid to Pakistani Nuclear Program

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Washington D.C., 5 March 2004 - Over the course of three presidential administrations, U.S. governmental officials repeatedly pressed the Chinese government to explain whether it was providing any assistance to Pakistan in the nuclear weapons field, but Chinese officials responded with denials and equivocation. New evidence from Libya of Chinese-language material among the nuclear weapons-design documents supplied by Pakistan raises new questions about the Chinese contribution to Pakistan's nuclear proliferation activities. Exactly what the U.S. government knew and when it knew it remains highly secret in closed intelligence files, but the newly available diplomatic record shows:

  • U.S. unease over secret China-Pakistan security and military cooperation during the late 1960s
  • Chinese assistance to Pakistani nuclear-weapons related projects in 1977
  • the refusal by Chinese diplomats in 1982 to give an "unequivocal answer" to queries about nuclear weapons aid to Pakistan
  • the conclusion reached by State Department analysts in 1983 that China was assisting with the production of fissile materials and possibly with the design of weapons
  • the George H. W. Bush administration's concern in 1989 over "reports of Chinese assistance to Pakistan's nuclear weapons program"
  • denials by Chinese diplomats that same year of reports of Chinese nuclear aid to Pakistan
  • U.S. pressure on China in 1992 to impose full-scope safeguards on the sale of a nuclear reactor to Pakistan because of proliferation concerns
  • more disquiet (late 1992) over China's "continuing activities with Pakistan's nuclear weapons programs"
  • the Clinton administration's 1997 certification of improvements in Beijing's nuclear proliferation policies

The extent to which Chinese government agencies actually assisted the Pakistani nuclear weapons program remains conjectural. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has announced an investigation into the latest charges as well as strengthened commitment to the nonproliferation system. "A decision by the Foreign Ministry to publicize the results of its investigation would be a great victory for transparency although Beijing is more likely to sustain the secrecy surrounding its decisions on the Pakistani nuclear program," said William Burr, director of the National Security Archive's Nuclear Documentation Project.

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