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U.S. official praises China for nonproliferation efforts


BEIJING - A visiting U.S. official praised China yesterday for becoming "a major participant" in nonproliferation efforts in Asia and around the world but said two days of talks did not allay concerns about Chinese help for Pakistan's anti-ballistic missile program.

Allegations of such aid to Pakistan, made by U.S. intelligence agencies, have complicated the passage by the Senate of normal trade status for China and are fueling the push for a Senate bill that singles out China for scrutiny and penalties if it exports advanced weapons technologies.

"We raised our concern that China has provided aid to Pakistan and other countries," said John D. Holum, senior adviser to the secretary of state on arms control.

"We made progress, but the issue remains unresolved." Holum declined to explain his reference to "other countries."

China considers Pakistan, which followed India in conducting a nuclear test in 1998, a key strategic ally, helping to counter nuclear-armed India's power in South Asia.

The Chinese, Holum said yesterday, complained about U.S. sales of weapons to Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade part of the motherland.

And they repeated objections to U.S. plans for national and Asian-theater missile defenses, which could negate the deterrent power of China's small nuclear forces and draw Taiwan under a U.S. protective umbrella.

In a statement sure to anger China, Holum said: "We don't rule out the possibility that some time in the future" Taiwan might be included in an Asian missile shield.

Some Chinese arms experts say China is unlikely to promise to end exports of missile technology soon because such trade, or the threat of it, gives China a bargaining chip over the scale of U.S. weapons sold to Taiwan.

Holum stressed that the talks were held in a "very positive climate."

China has largely cooperated with the United States and global bodies in fighting the spread of weapons of mass destruction, he said.

"It's important for Americans to recognize that China has in a very short time covered an extremely long distance in terms of nonproliferation and arms control," Holum said, noting the various treaties and other agreements it had joined over the last decade.

He said that China had played a "constructive role" with North Korea to curb development of missiles and nuclear weapons and had kept a promise to stop aiding Iran's nuclear program.

His comments appeared unlikely to sway senators, mainly Republicans, who are pushing a bill intended to constrain Chinese exports of nuclear and missile technology.

Its sponsors have been energized by charges that China provided crucial materials and technical experts to Pakistan within the past 18 months, assisting development of a new long-range missile that could carry nuclear weapons.

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