Our Dealings with the Middle Kingdom

by Charles D. Ferguson
Senior Research Analyst
Federation of American Scientists
The Washington Post May 11, 1999

Reports that nuclear weapons data were transferred from classified to unclassified computers at Los Alamos National Laboratory and that China's neutron bomb test failed even after China allegedly stole this bomb's secrets from the United States have implications that go to the heart of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty debate and illustrates the need for treaty ratification this year by the Senate.

Assuming that China had stolen neutron bomb secrets, this information was not sufficient to produce a workable weapon. The test failure reportedly prompted China to steal more neutron bomb information in 1995.

Given this situation, China is not likely to deploy this weapon in its military without further testing. This testing will not occur as long as China continues to adhere to a nuclear-testing moratorium, which could unravel without global enactment of the treaty. This illustrates the fact that the treaty, which bans nuclear explosive testing, provides the best constraint against the development of nuclear weapons.