The Reagan administration, protesting China's sale of Silkworm missiles to Iran, has decided to delay future transfers of high-technology items to China and the Senate last night voted to ask the White House to review a current $528 million arms agreement.
Both actions follow Iran's Silkworm missile attack yesterday on a Kuwaiti oil terminal in the Persian Gulf, the third time in a week that Iranian Silkworms have hit targets in Kuwaiti waters.
State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said the decision not to proceed with future high-technology transfers to China was taken because of "rising tensions in the gulf," adding, "We consider this an inappropriate time to proceed with our review of further export control liberalization."
The State Department reportedly had been considering the sale of computers, semiconductor manufacturing equipment and telecommunications and electronic testing equipment to China, which has been eager to obtain high technology equipment from the United States, according to Sen. Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alaska).
The Senate concurrent resolution, offered by Murkowski, asked the administration to review all transfers of U.S. military-related technology to China to show that the "continued transfer of Silkworm missiles to Iran may seriously jeopardize U.S.-China relations."
Murkowski said he wants to "send a message that U.S. military sales should not, in my opinion, continue if China continues its Silkworm sales" to Iran. The resolution was approved by voice vote.
The approved U.S. arms sale to China includes $500 million in radar and navigation equipment to upgrade China's F8 interceptor planes, $28 million in artillery shells and support for an artillery factory and an as-yet undetermined number of antisubmarine torpedoes. Murkowski said his resolution asked that any of the equipment that has not yet reached China should be held up pending agreements from China to support a U.N.-sponsored arms embargo to Iran.
Alhough China has repeatedly denied that it has provided the surface-to-surface Silkworm missiles to Iran, U.S. intelligence sources have reported that Beijing has sold 30 to 35 Silkworms to the Persian Gulf nation. Oakley refused to say yesterday whether the department believes China still is supplying Iran with the missiles.
Oakley said the United States had consulted "recently" with the Chinese both here and in Beijing "concerning recent events in the Persian Gulf . . . . We have raised our concerns over Silkworm missiles."
Iranian Silkworms last week hit two oil tankers, one owned by a U.S. company and the other flying an American flag. The attack on the American-flagged vessel prompted the U.S. retaliation Monday in which the Navy destroyed Iranian platforms in mid-gulf used for military operations.
Oakley said Iran had launched the missile that hit the Kuwaiti oil terminal yesterday from a site on Iraq's Faw Peninsula, which Iranian forces have partly occupied since early last year.
She called it a "blatant Iranian aggression against a nonbelligerent state."
Oakley said the attack underlined the need for the international community to move "urgently" to force a negotiated settlement to the seven-year Iran-Iraq war.
U.S. officials say China has become Tehran's largest arms supplier, providing an estimated $1 billion in arms in the past year.
China also is a major supplier for Iraq. A recent report compiled by the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency estimated that China sold Iraq $3.1 billion in arms between 1981 and 1985.