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(NPT: U.S. opposes nuclear cooperation with Iran) (850)

By Jacquelyn Porth

USIA Security Affairs Writer

New York -- Secretary of State Christopher and Chinese Foreign

Minister Qian Quichen, who met April 17 in New York to discuss a very

broad agenda of security and political issues, agreed that their

nations share "responsibility" for dealing with the world's nuclear

proliferation problems, a U.S. official said.

Christopher also stressed U.S. opposition to "all nuclear cooperation

with Iran," the official said, and told the Chinese foreign minister

that the United States is not singling out China in expressing its

concern about a possible Chinese-Iranian nuclear deal; he said it is

concerned with a Russian-Iranian deal as well.

While the proposed Chinese transfer of nuclear technology to Iran

would not violate Chinese obligations under the 1968 nuclear

Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the official said Christopher asked

the Chinese to refrain from making the transfer because the United

States believes Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. To emphasize the

point, he said, the United States has asked the Chinese to study

written intelligence information similar to information it has

provided the Russians about Iranian nuclear intentions.

Rather than reacting to the U.S. position, the official indicated, the

Chinese were "in a listening mode." At the same time, he said the

Chinese understand "the strength of our concern" regarding any

nation's nuclear cooperation with Iran, which is based on having seen

evidence of Iranian efforts to procure equipment and technology aimed

at producing fissile materials.

The Iranians "seem to be seeking to acquire capabilities that have no

other rational justification than the acquisition of the ability to

acquire nuclear weapons," the official noted, although he said the

Chinese have pointed out that their cooperation with Iran would be

"solely for peaceful purposes" and would be conducted under

International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

The U.S. official, who briefed reporters following the bilateral

meeting, described the U.S.-Chinese discussion on nuclear

non-proliferation as "very positive," with the Chinese foreign

minister expressing the need to have a successful outcome of the NPT

review and extension conference, which opened later in the day at the

United Nations. The official said the Chinese gave no indication of

how they plan to vote on NPT extension, although their public position

will be unveiled on April 18 when Qian addresses the conference.

The United States has been seeking indefinite extension of the 1968

NPT agreement, although other nations have sought to have the treaty

extended for a fixed period or fixed periods.

Following a "wide-ranging discussion" on non-proliferation issues, the

official said the United States and China agreed to hold regular

consultations on arms control, non-proliferation and related security

matters. They also agreed to hold expert-level discussions aimed at

finding a way to overcome past impediments to peaceful nuclear


He also said expert discussions will be scheduled "soon" on missile

non-proliferation issues. The United States has proposed opening a

dialogue with the Chinese on how to establish a "competent" export

control system, the official said, and the Chinese have agreed.

Despite plans to hold three consultations, the official said "a lot of

unfinished business" remains on the non-proliferation agenda between

the two countries.

Much of the U.S.-Chinese meeting focused on U.S. concerns about North

Korea, the official said. He said both sides agreed that the April 21

deadline should not be viewed as "fixed," that the nuclear freeze

should not be broken, and that there must be a North-South dialogue in

order to implement the nuclear framework agreement and "to settle the

future of the peninsula."

On the broader agenda, the official indicated that both the U.S. and

Chinese sides acknowledged that there have been "some differences and

difficulties" in their relationship but also believed that some

progress has been made in recent months and that there is a sense that

"momentum has been maintained in the relationship."

Other issues addressed during the U.S.-Chinese meeting included a

lengthy discussion of human rights, including the treatment of Chinese

dissidents and Red Cross visits to Chinese prisons. Christopher

expressed hope in the meeting that the Chinese would talk to the Dalai

Lama "without preconditions" about Tibet. The official said China's

record on human rights continues to be an "impediment to the full

flowering" of the U.S.-Chinese relationship.

The September women's conference in Beijing was discussed, with

Christopher expressing the U.S. hope that non-governmental

organizations will have "fair access" to the proceedings, the briefer

said. The secretary of state also welcomed China's 

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World Trade Organization, while indicating that it would have to be on

commercially acceptable grounds.

Christopher and Qian also discussed the disputed Spratly Islands, with

Christopher expressing concern about the issue of freedom of

navigation and noting U.S. opposition to using force to settle

conflicting claims to the territory. The briefer said the secretary of

state indicated U.S. opposition to further construction.