Ken's original investigation appears in the December 1999 issue of Reader's Digest magazine.
Kenneth R. Timmerman is a contributing editor for Reader's Digest and a frequent contributor to The American Spectator.
By Kenneth Timmerman Home
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. . . . Communist China once again has succeeded at making U.S. appeasement appear like Chinese concessions, this time in the terms of agreement for China's admission into the World Trade Organization, or WTO. American business leaders and consumers would be advised to take a closer look at how China has exploited U.S. trade concessions in the past before they leap on the bandwagon of this latest agreement. In August, when it tested the DF-31, a new long-range intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, Beijing revealed just how successful free trade with American defense and high-tech firms has been -- not in expanding U.S. exports, but in advancing China's own strategic interests.
. . . . The Chinese announced the successful test, an unusual move made all the more brazen by the fact that the American public still was digesting charges that the People's Republic of China, or PRC, has been spying on U.S. nuclear-weapons labs, as revealed in the bipartisan Cox committee report. But according to a Chinese scientist who recently defected from the PRC and now lives in the United States, the Chinese did not need to spy at all. Much of what they needed in the way of specialized military equipment and technology was purchased on the open market in the United States with help and approval from Clinton administration regulators.
. . . . Some experts believe the missile will be topped with a specially designed nose cone that will give China the ability to launch multiple nuclear warheads deep into the American heartland. Despite the fact that China developed the DF-31 with U.S. targets in mind, an investigation I conducted for Reader's Digest has discovered that both the missile as well as the warhead dispenser were developed with assistance from the U.S.-based companies -- and apparently, with the approval of the U.S. government.
. . . . Interviews with company officials and Clinton-administration regulators showed that those sales were monitored and approved by the U.S. government. When the road-mobile DF-31 is deployed sometime in the next few years, it will give China the ability to launch multiple nuclear warheads deep into the American heartland for the first time, from launchers that will be virtually immune from detection.
. . . . "Our factory was in trouble before I started working there," the Chinese scientist told me during the last six months. "Then we got a major contract from Motorola, and things took off." The sudden influx of hard currency "financed the DF-31 program," he said, as well as another, shorter-range missile, the DF-21, which will be used to target Japan.
. . . . The scientist worked at the Hexi Machinery and Chemical Co. in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, a once-independent state annexed by Communist China in 1949. In China, the plant is known as the 41st Research Institute, a branch of the 4th Academy of the state-owned China Aerospace Corp., which has built all of China's strategic rockets as well as its Long March space-launch vehicles.
. . . . On April 28, 1993, Motorola signed a contract with China Great Wall Industries Corp., or CGWIC, the marketing department of China Aerospace, to launch 12 of its Iridium global-communication satellites. As part of the contract the Chinese agreed to develop a "smart dispenser" allowing them to launch several satellites from a single rocket. Earlier Chinese attempts to develop such a dispenser had failed.
. . . . But according to the defector, help from U.S. engineers changed all that: "Our U.S. partners gave us the specifications and technical assistance to produce the dispenser," he said, adding that engineers from Hexi traveled to Lockheed and Motorola facilities in the United States to exchange data and tweak their design. The exchanges caught the eye of U.S. intelligence analysts who were alarmed at the capabilities being transferred to an agency responsible for designing Chinese ICBMs. A Dec.10, 1996, top-secret report from the National Air Intelligence Center, obtained by Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz, called the Chinese satellite dispenser a "technology bridge" that, with few modifications, would allow the Chinese to launch multiple nuclear warheads from their missiles. Despite these reservations, the Clinton administration allowed Motorola to pursue its cooperation with the Chinese.
. . . . The Chinese first demonstrated the dispenser in September 1997, successfully lofting two test satellites into orbit. Just two months later commercial launches began.
. . . . Lockheed developed and built the dispenser system used by Motorola to deliver Iridium satellites from U.S. rockets. A company spokesman said that Lockheed had no direct dealings with the Chinese on the project, since all the licenses were held by Motorola.
. . . . Motorola says the licenses it obtained from the Clinton administration allowed it to share data with the Chinese to ensure that the dispenser system worked.
. . . . "This technology is directly applicable to China's efforts to develop missiles with multiple independently targetable warheads," charges Henry Sokolski, a former deputy secretary at the Department of Defense. "It is a capability the Chinese have been unable to master on their own."
. . . . The company also has acknowledged that it supplied the Chinese with exploding bolts, which are used for stage separation -- another key rocket technology incorporated into the DF-31.
. . . . In a separate contract, Martin Marietta, which since has merged with Lockheed, helped Hexi to develop a solid-fuel kick motor used to propel satellites into high-Earth orbit. According to a May 1999 investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Martin Marietta engineers "offered to assist CGWIC in evaluating the motor" and made recommendations for improving it. "The Committee is not aware of any PRC kick-motor failures since these recommendations were made" in 1994.
. . . . The Chinese defector says the U.S. assistance was critical: "Before we received this help from the United States, China had never succeeded in developing propellants powerful enough to be used for strategic-range solid-fuel rockets. This gave us a new capability." A Lockheed spokesman insisted that the company cleared all Chinese technology exchanges with Defense Department monitors. Sokolski disputes this. "In fact, the technology exchange was done over the objection of the monitors, but they were powerless to stop it." An earlier Chinese attempt to build their own kick motor based on Chinese propellants failed in 1990 during an attempt to launch a Pakistani satellite built by Hughes Aircraft Co.
. . . . Following the failed launch, CGWIC purchased several kick motors from Thiokol Corp. (now Cordant Technologies) in the United States. The U.S. motors used far more powerful propellants than what the Chinese had developed on their own. The defector says that fellow workers at the plant boasted that they had obtained the secrets of the U.S. propellants, including the exact chemical formulas, grain size and casting techniques.
. . . . The kick motor Hexi eventually developed measures 1.7 meters in diameter -- precisely the dimension of solid-fuel rockets Hexi was developing for yet another stalled missile project, the DF-21. This medium-range missile, designed to target the Japanese home island as well as U.S. military bases on Okinawa, had failed repeatedly at test launches through the 1980s and early 1990s. At one spectacular failure, which the defector witnessed firsthand in late May 1992, the rocket blew up shortly after it was ejected from its launch tube, destroying the launch vehicle and the surrounding facilities at the Taiyuan launch center.
. . . . That failure was not merely an embarrassment; it nearly killed the program, since it was attended by the Chinese minister of aerospace and People's Liberation Army, or PLA, top brass. "The PLA was discouraged by the series of launch failures and refused to purchase the missile," the defector said.
. . . . Later that year, Hexi sent one of its top missile designers, Wang Baoshan, on a tour of U.S. design labs and production facilities. After his return to China, Hexi developed its own kick motor, as well as an improved DF-21 booster. The PLA bought the new missile in 1994, and Hexi has been producing an estimated 10 to 12 rockets per year ever since.
. . . . According to Chinese design engineers interviewed last year by Richard Fisher, a specialist on Chinese-military research then working at the Heritage Foundation, the DF-21 will employ terminally guided conventional warheads, using either guidance supplied from U.S. Global Position System satellites or through a new radar system. The Chinese also are developing radio-frequency warheads, multiple bomblets, fuel-air explosives and deep-penetrating charges that will make the DF-21 "the PLA's conventional-strike weapon of choice," Fisher says.
. . . . Now that the 4th Academy of China Aerospace has resolved design snags with the DF-21 and the DF-31, thanks to U.S. help, they are turning full-time to perfecting a follow-up system, the DF-41, which is expected to have a range of 12,000 kilometers and will carry multiple nuclear warheads, based on U.S. designs stolen from our nuclear-weapons labs.
. . . . Some still wonder just how helpful U.S. defense firms have been to China's ability to modernize its missile arsenal. Until recently, U.S. government analysts have predicted the DF-31 would not fly until 2005, with the DF-41 perhaps five years behind. Today, most analysts admit the future is now. Beijing always has known what to do with U.S. trade concessions: improve their military. As China increasingly rattles its sabers at Taiwan and seeks to dominate the South China Sea, the United States would do better to exercise greater scrutiny over high-tech sales to Communist China, not loosen them.
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. . . . Kenneth Timmerman is a contributing editor at Reader's Digest magazine.
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