China agrees to accord on missile exports


BEIJING -- China announced yesterday that it will abide by a key international accord controlling the exports of missiles and related technology, a move long sought by the United States as a means of limiting Chinese arms sales to the Middle East.

"China will act in accordance with the Missile Control Technology Regime guidelines and parameters in its export of missiles and missile technology," a state news agency report said, quoting a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.

The Chinese move follows by one day the Bush administration's decision to lift sanctions imposed in June on the sale of certain U.S. high-technology goods to China, such as satellite parts and high-speed computers.

China promised U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III during his visit in November that it would observe the missile-control guidelines if the United States ended its sanctions on technology sales.

Another Chinese promise to Mr. Baker -- to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by the end of next month -- has not yet been carried out. China is the last acknowledged nuclear power that has not signed that 1968 pact.

Meanwhile, allegations have continued to crop up that China persists in exporting missiles to Iran, Syria and Pakistan, and nuclear technology to some Mideast nations. China has strenuously denied these reports.

Yesterday's announcement may not end the dispute over weapons proliferation.

In the past, China has maintained that many of its missile exports do not fall under the MCTR guidelines because the weapons' ranges are too short. Additionally, many foreign analysts believe that the Chinese leadership is not entirely in control of its nation's free-wheeling arms merchants.

The lifting of the U.S. sanctions and the Chinese response on missile exports came as the countries marked the 20th anniversary Friday of former President Richard M. Nixon's historic visit to Beijing, which opened the way for normalization of Sino-American relations in 1979.

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