Analysts: China’s Cruise-Missile Focus Raises Proliferation Stakes

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A Chinese missile frigate docks in Hong Kong in 2012. A new analysis warns that China's development of advanced cruise missiles raises the risk of its technology spreading to other countries.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
May 13, 2014, 6:14 a.m.

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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