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U.S. asked China to stop missile parts shipment to Iran

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Monday, November 29, 2010; 12:08 AM

The United States asked China in 2007 to stop a shipment of ballistic missile parts going from North Korea to Iran through Beijing and indicated that the U.S. government was fed up with China's unwillingness to crack down on such trade, according to reports Sunday based on U.S. diplomatic cables.

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Another cable highlighted U.S. concern this year that Chinese firms were supplying North Korea with precursors for chemical weapons - in what would be a violation of U.N. sanctions.

A third cable, quoting an unidentified Chinese contact interviewed in January, claimed that China's Politburo ordered Chinese hackers to break into Google's computer systems last year as part of a massive effort by Chinese state-backed saboteurs to infiltrate the e-mail accounts and databases of political dissidents and foreign governments.

The cables were among more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic missives released Sunday by WikiLeaks.

U.S. officials have long accused China of failing to crack down on proliferation activities that occur on its territory. For decades, China was a major proliferator of missiles itself, but that activity seemed to slow in the 1990s under U.S. pressure. China passed export control laws, but Beijing has rarely, according to U.S. officials and the cables revealed Sunday, actively worked to stop proliferation from occurring on its territory.

According to a cable dated Nov. 3, 2007, and signed by then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a North Korean cargo of missile jet vanes destined for Iran's ballistic missile program was set to be shipped the next day from North Korea via Beijing on an Iran Air flight.

"The [State] department is seeking both immediate action . . . and a strategic approach with regards to this critical issue," the cable says. "We now have information that the goods will be shipped on 4 November and insist on a substantive response from China. . . . We assess that the best way to prevent these shipments in the future is for Chinese authorities to take action . . . that will make the Beijing airport a less hospitable transfer point." It is unclear whether China moved to stop the shipment.

Earlier this year, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton continued to pressure China on proliferation issues, this time because it was apparently turning a blind eye to its own companies.

In that cable, in May, Clinton said the United States was concerned that exports by named Chinese firms "could be used for or diverted to a CW [chemical weapons] program.''

- John Pomfret


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