China rebuts U.S. claim Ship search shows no illegal chemicals

September 03, 1993|By Robert Benjamin | Robert Benjamin,Beijing Bureau

BEIJING -- In what could be a major embarrassment for the United States, China said yesterday that an inspection of one of its ships in Saudi Arabia has disproved a U.S. charge that the vessel was ferrying banned chemical weapon components to Iran.

The United States forced the cargo ship's inspection as part of a broader effort to pressure China into abiding by the guidelines of various international arms control agreements.

China has rankled at this pressure, indignantly accusing the United States of "posing as a self-anointed international policeman." The possible U.S. error now could make it more politically difficult for the United States to attempt to control similarly suspect shipments by China.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mike McCurry confirmed that no chemical weapon components had been found, but he said the inspection was not over yet.

The possible U.S. setback comes a week after the United States imposed a two-year ban on high-tech exports to China because of Chinese sales of M-11 missile parts to Pakistan.

The United States says the sales violate a missile control pact China has agreed to follow. But China has maintained that the M-11 sales do not even come under the pact's guidelines because the range of the missiles is too short.

As for what was being carried to Iran by its cargo ship, China

said the vessel held nothing more hazardous than machine tools, paper goods and metals.

Rather than trumpet the alleged U.S. error, Chinese officials struck a restrained line yesterday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wu Jianmin reiterated that the United States ought to lift the new export sanctions, saying dialogue works better than such "pressure." Similarly, Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin Wednesday called for improved Sino-U.S. relations through "mutual respect and non-interference in each other's internal affairs."

The suspected chemicals are among those barred from transfer under a new treaty that bans the stockpiling and proliferation of chemical weapons.

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