WASHINGTON -- The administration plans to warn China that its weapons exports could bring punitive sanctions, and a debate continues within the government over whether the message is tough enough, according to senior administration officials.
In response to what Washington calls mounting evidence that Beijing is shipping missile technology to Pakistan, Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher will raise the issue when he meets with Foreign Minister Qian Qichen Sunday in Singapore, the officials said. The issue will be discussed in detail on the following two days in Beijing by Lynn E. Davis, undersecretary of state for international security affairs.
In May, despite what U.S. intelligence agencies described as compelling evidence that China had shipped parts for M-11 missiles to Pakistan, the administration renewed China's favored trade status, making it conditional on improvements in China's human rights record.
Since then, intelligence reports have led some senior arms experts to conclude that Pakistan has received all the components to assemble the missiles, senior officials said yesterday.
These officials also describe intelligence reports indicating that China has stepped up its cooperation on missile technology with Iran, which is trying to develop more sophisticated arms, and that China has shipped chemicals that could be used for weapons to Tehran.
But there is a deep split within the Clinton administration over whether Pakistan actually has missiles and whether the Chinese and Pakistani agencies involved should be punished with sanctions, as required under U.S. law. The sanctions would bar the government or U.S. companies from doing business with the agencies involved.
The Central Intelligence Agency, for example, has taken a very hard line, while senior Pentagon officials, including William J. Perry, deputy secretary of defense, say there is no firm evidence that China has shipped the missiles. The State Department is divided, although some officials close to Mr. Christopher have said that given the evidence, China should not be given the benefit of the doubt.