investigation appears in the December 1999 issue of
Kenneth R. Timmerman
is a contributing editor for Reader's Digest and a frequent
contributor to The American Spectator.
By Kenneth Timmerman
. . . .
. . . . 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
. . . . 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.
. . . . 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
. . . . 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 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"
. . . . 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
. . . . 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,"
. . . . 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.
. . . .
. . . . Kenneth Timmerman is
a contributing editor at Reader's Digest magazine.
. . . .