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Meet Senator Thompson

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Floor Statement on China Nonproliferation Act

July 10, 2000
Mr. THOMPSON. Madam President, I rose on the floor on June 22 to address a matter of great concern to everyone, the issue of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
A couple of years ago, I was watching late night television and ran across a seminar being conducted by former Senator Sam Nunn. Someone asked him during a question and answer period what he considered to be the greatest threat to the United States of America. He mentioned terrorism and the new emerging threat of weapons of mass destruction.
A short time after that, I was watching the Charlie Rose Show late one night with former Secretary of State Warren Christopher. When asked the same question, he gave the same answer: that post-Cold War, we have not concerned ourselves perhaps very much with some of these issues but that we should, and there are emerging threats out there.
I think the Senator from West Virginia is contemplating a proposal that deals with this very issue. I have been specifically concerned with that issue with regard to China for a couple of reasons: One, they continue to lead the nations of the world in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, according to our intelligence community; two, because we are now getting ready to embark on the issue of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China.
Many of us are free traders; many of us believe in open markets; many of us want to support that. I think the majority of the Senate certainly does. Is there not any better time, and is it not incumbent upon us in the same general time-frame and the same general debate, that we couldn't, shouldn't, consider something so vitally important to this country as the issue of our nuclear trading partner, that we are being asked to embrace in a new world regime, that sits with us on the Security Council of the United Nations? Is it too much to ask of them to cease this dangerous proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the supplying of these rogue nations with weapons of mass destruction--be they chemical, biological, or nuclear--which pose a threat to us?
We are considering now the issue of the national missile defense system. Many people in this Nation, I think a majority of people in this Congress, are very concerned that we have no defense against such a terrorist attack, an accidental attack, an attack by a rogue nation with weapons of mass destruction, and that we need such a missile defense.
One of the primary reasons we need a national missile defense system has to do with the activities of the Chinese and their supplying of rogue nations with these materials, expertise, capabilities, military parts that have nuclear capabilities which we are so concerned that, by the year of 2005, could be turned against us. Must we not consider this as we consider permanent normal trade relations? As important as trade is, is it more important than our national security? I think that question answers itself.
I pointed out on June 22 that the Rumsfeld Commission reported in July of 1998 that: China poses a threat as a significant proliferator of ballistic missiles, weapons of mass destruction, and enabling technology. The commission went on to say China's behavior thus far makes it appear unlikely that it will soon effectively reduce its country's sizable transfer of critical technologies, experts, or expertise to the emerging missile powers.
A little later, on June 22 of this year, the Far Eastern Economic Review reported that Robert Einhorn, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation, left Hong Kong on June 11 with a small delegation bound for Beijing. The article said, ?Neither the American nor Chinese side reported this trip. Einhorn is on a delicate mission to get a commitment from Beijing not to export missile technology and components to Iran and Pakistan.' It went on to say, ?U.S. intelligence reports suggest that China may have begun building a missile plant in Pakistan. If true, it would be the second Chinese-built plant there.'
If that article is indeed true, it would certainly be consistent with what we know about other Chinese activities. There is a recent report that there is growing Chinese support for Libya and their missile program. We know they have supported the Iranian missile program. We know they have supported the North Korean missile program. So those are some of the things we discussed back on June 22.
Let's bring ourselves up to date now. Just this last Sunday, July 2, the New York Times reported, ?American intelligence agencies have told the Clinton administration and Congress that China has continued to aid Pakistan's effort to building long-range missiles that could carry nuclear weapons, according to several officials with access to intelligence reports.' The story goes on to say, ?China stepped up the shipment of specialty steels, guidance systems, and technical expertise to Pakistan . . . since 1998.'
That is very recent activity. Shipments to Pakistan have been continued over the past 8 to 18 months, according to this story. This, of course, would be in violation of the Missile Technology Control Regime to which the Chinese Government agreed to adhere. Strangely enough, weeks ago, our Secretary of State praised the Chinese for complying with the MTCR. It is pretty obvious now they are not complying. Some answers need to be forthcoming from the Secretary of State with regard to that.
But things are more serious than that because we now know, because of these recent developments and, perhaps, because of some of the issues we are considering in this Senate, the administration sent another envoy to the Chinese for 2 days of talks concerning some of these proliferation problems. On July 9, we got a report back from that latest trip, where our people went over there to plead with the Chinese to change their behavior at a time when we are about to consider permanent normal trade relations. We have gotten the results back. According to the New York Times on July 9, this visiting American official, who is Mr. J.D. Holum, adviser to the Secretary of State on arms control, said, ?After 2 days of talks, the Chinese would not allay concerns about recent Chinese help for Pakistan's ballistic missile program.' He is quoted here as saying, ?We raised our concern that China has provided aid to Pakistan and other countries.' That is according to Mr. Holum.
The article goes on to say, ?Some Chinese arms experts say that China is unlikely to promise to end exports of missile technology anytime soon because such trade, or the threat of it, gives China a bargaining chip over the scale of American weapons sold to Taiwan.'
Apparently, what the Chinese Government is saying is that as long as we assist Taiwan--which we are determined to do--for defensive purposes against the aggression of the Chinese Government, they are going to continue to assist these outlaw nations in their offensive designs that might be targeted toward the United States. That bears some serious consideration. The Chinese Government is saying if you continue to be friendly with Taiwan and assist them in defending themselves against us, we are going to continue to make the world more dangerous for you and the rest of the world by continuing to assist these nations of great concern. We have to ask ourselves: Are we willing to acquiesce to that kind of blackmail? We have a policy with regard to Taiwan. It is well stated. Are we going to withdraw our support for Taiwan, which might assist in doing something about this proliferation? I don't think so. I would certainly oppose it. I think most every Member of this body would oppose that. So you can take that option off the table.
What are we going to do? The other option would be to continue to sit pat, continue our policy, and see the continued proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We will try to build a missile defense system that will catch them. While they are building up over there, we will build up over here.
There is a third option, of course. That is to tell the Chinese Government that, yes, we will trade with you; yes, we want to engage with you; yes, we will help you see progress in human rights and other issues; yes, we acknowledge you have taken a lot of people out of poverty and opened up your markets somewhat; yes, we will do all those things, but if you continue to do things that pose a mortal threat to the United States of America, we will respond to that in an economic way. There will be consequences to you.
It does not have to be directly related to trade. We can do some other things that would not hurt our people. For example, the Chinese have access to our capital markets. They raise billions of dollars in our capital markets. It is free and open to them. It is not transparent at all. We don't know what they do with that money. Some people think they use it to build up their army. But Chinese interests raise billions of dollars in our capital markets. Should we allow them to continue to doing that when they are supplying these rogue nations with weapons that are a threat to us? It makes no sense at all. Must we read in the paper someday that the North Koreans or the Iranians, sure enough, have a missile and have the nuclear capability of send a nuclear missile to the United States of America?
People say: They know they would be wiped off the face of the Earth. We could retaliate and they would never do something like that. Number one, we made a lot of mistakes in this country by assuming other people think the same way we do. Number two, I am not sure we are always going to be able to detect the source of a missile such as that. The United States would not likely, as some people say--having it trip off their tongue so easily--wipe a nation off the face of the Earth unless we were absolutely sure. So there is no need to go down that road. We must do something on the front end that will ameliorate the possibility of our ever getting into that situation and that condition. That is why 17 of my colleagues and I have proposed a bill called the China Nonproliferation Act, which basically calls for an annual assessment of the activities of the Chinese Government and Chinese Government-controlled entities within China, to see how they are doing on a yearly basis in terms of their proliferation activity. Then, if there is a finding that they continue their proliferation activity, the President has the authority to take action.
I believe that is the least we can do under the circumstances. Our bill has become quite controversial because many people think it complicates the issue of permanent normal trade relations with China. They do not want to do anything; they say--to hurt our exporters. We have made changes. No one can arguably say our bill hurts U.S. exporters now. We don't want to hurt our agricultural industry. We have made changes to accommodate that concern. We are not designing this in order to hurt our agricultural industry, so that is not an issue anymore.
When you get right down to it, the opponents of this bill are primarily concerned about doing anything to agitate the Chinese at a time in which we are trying to get permanent normal trade relations passed. I don't think we ought to gratuitously aggravate them. But if we are not prepared to risk the displeasure of a nation that is doing things that pose a mortal threat to our national security, what are we prepared to do?
What is more important than that? I am not saying let's cut off trade with them. I am not saying let's take action against them for precipitous reasons or reasons that are not well thought out. I am saying we must respond to these continued reports from the Rumsfeld Commission, from the Cox Commission, from our biennial intelligence assessments, from these reports from our own envoys coming back saying the Chinese are basically telling us to get lost. We know what they are doing, and they are apparently not even denying it anymore. And we are going to approve PNTR without even taking up this issue?
We are trying to get a vote on this bill. So far we have been unable to do so. I ask my colleagues to seriously consider what kind of signal we are going to be sending. We talk a lot about signals around here. I ask what kind of signal we are going to be sending to the Chinese Government, to our allies, to the rest of the world, if we are not willing to take steps to defend ourselves? A great country that is unwilling to defend itself will not be a great country forever.
I yield the floor.http://web.archive.org/web/20021113061015/thompson.senate.gov/press/2000/speeches/fs071000.html

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Fred Thompson

Fred Thompson
Former U.S. Senator (R-TN)