CHINA has spurned an accord limiting the sale of missiles overseas, even though Iraqi missile attacks during the Gulf war attested to the dangers of such trade. The rejection by China conflicted with assertions by a leading United States diplomat, who met this month with Chinese officials as part of efforts by Washington to develop international restraints on missile sales.
China is one of just a handful of countries that have sold medium-range missiles abroad.
Foreign Minister Qian Qichen noted at a press conference Wednesday that China has not signed the missile technology control regime (MTCR) and did not attend a recent meeting in Tokyo of 15 signatories of the agreement. The MTCR limits sales in medium-range missiles and related technology.
``Those countries that did not attend the meeting should not be called upon to assume corresponding obligations to an agreement reached among some other countries,'' Mr. Qian said.
However, US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Solomon said after a two-day visit this month that, ``we have the missile technology control regime and the Chinese have indicated that they will honor those parameters.''
The US is encouraging Beijing to join its effort to build a broad framework to control the spread of missile technology, Mr. Solomon said.
``As we try to find a multilateral mechanism to prevent the inflow of weaponry, China is going to have to be a player,'' Solomon said on March 12.
China's missiles sales have long worried US officials seeking to limit the spread into volatile regions of weapon systems capable of delivering nuclear or other devastating warheads.
UNITED STATES intelligence services learned in 1988 that China had completed a $2 billion sale of CSS-2 medium-range ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia. Since then, there has been no evidence that China has completed another similar deal, according to Solomon.
After dismissing the MTCR as unsuitable for China, Qian said, ``As for China's arms exports, in this China has always been acting in a very prudent and responsible way.
``Actually, I think I can say that China's arms sales are very, very limited, so we hope that the largest weapons exporters in the world can adopt responsible and effective measures of self restraint.''
The total value of China's arms sales to the third world from 1986 to 1989 exceeded the total for Britain or France, according to the Congressional Research Service.
China's trade in arms has declined in recent years, but it remains a major supplier of weaponry to developing countries.