Analysts warn that China's development of new cruise missiles raises the risk of its technology spreading to other countries.
"If China's past record of proliferating ballistic missiles and technology is any indication of its intentions vis-à-vis cruise missile transfers, the consequences could be highly disruptive for the nonproliferation regime," academics Andrew Ericson, Dennis Gormley and Jingdong Yuan wrote in a Monday analysis for the National Interest.
The experts said China's pursuit of new antiship and land-attack cruise missiles is intended largely to prepare against possible tensions over Taiwan, a self-governing island claimed by Beijing as Chinese territory. They added, though, that outside actors have previously obtained Chinese arms, which may one day include an advanced nuclear-ready cruise missile for hitting land-based targets.
Past Chinese actions have held up Beijing's decade-old effort to join the Missile Technology Control Regime, according to Ericson and Yuan, who work as associate professors at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island and at Sydney University, respectively.
They said members of the 34-country export control group are skeptical of China's past assurances that it would informally observe rules established by the organization, which is dedicated to limiting the spread of sophisticated missile technologies. Beijing previously supplied antiship cruise missiles to Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Myanmar and Pakistan, they wrote, citing findings from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. In addition, Pakistan may have obtained land-targeting cruise missiles from China, according to the analysts.
The analysts said bringing China into the multinational group would represent a significant achievement, but Beijing must first take substantial steps to "correct previous shortcomings."
Joining the missile nonproliferation framework may ultimately necessitate a "Herculean effort" by China to ramp up its enforcement of missile-trade regulations among domestic exporters, they wrote.
Clarification: This story has been updated to identify all three authors of the National Interest analysis.
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