Discussion in China : Disarmament and the Non Proliferation Treaty

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Introduction

In Beijing, I met Zhang Jun from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Niu Qiang, Secretary General of the Chinese People’s Association for Peace & Disarmament with Chen Huaifan the Office Director and three researchers. Both meetings were most cordial, with green tea and comfy chairs.

Chinese Government

Zhang Jun from the Arms Control and Disarmament Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had just returned from the United Nations and was thrown back into work without a break, having forfeited a week’s state holiday by being in New York. He was very disappointed in the PrepCom. and its failure to set an Agenda for 2005, the failure to agree any substantive items or to include the Chair’s report in the Annex. He reported that the USA blocked every vote. Zhang said that NGOs did a better job than the professionals and that it would be good if Chinese NGO delegates could attend the NPT Review Conference in 2005. He said that China was a more open society now and that NGOs were growing in number.

On warhead numbers, no exact number was given on grounds of national security. When asked if an NGO were to distribute a leaflet advocating a reduction of China’s warheads, Zhang said that it would not attract sanctions, but that people were more interested in economic issues than in disarmament.

On disarmament, the view is that Russia and the USA must reduce their arsenals before China will make reductions. China will not take unilateral steps, but Zhang expressed interest in the suggestion that a bilateral agreement with the UK to reduce warheads by half should be considered. On verification, Zhang expressed interest in the suggestion of a bilateral surrogate onsite verification exercise with the UK, especially since the MOD is committed to an independent (from the USA) Verification Research Project.

In conclusion, China is ready to pursue an active role in achieving disarmament through the NPT, if a regime change in the USA makes this possible.

Chinese People’s Assoc. for Peace & Disarmament

This is an official peace umbrella organisation for 24 Peace groups in China including Youth, Religious, Professional and Research organisations. The CPAPC has a staff of 20 and is due to move out of their present office within a military guarded compound. It has a working relationship with government, preparing commissioned reports and making suggestions to try to influence it. It mostly supports the government, considering that China needs nuclear weapons for deterrence.

On warhead numbers and other factual questions, CPAPC has no information, concentrating on international relations and supporting the government call for the implementation of the three pillars of the NPT: disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear power. It calls on other countries’ NGOs to raise slogans to appeal to the masses, demanding that their governments adopt the Chinese commitment to No First Use and for multilateral and bilateral agreements to give the Non Nuclear States positive assurances that they will not be attacked using nuclear weapons.

On terrorism, Niu supported a comprehensive approach – to get to the root of ethical and religious problems.

On the idea of bilateral warhead reductions and a verification exercise with Britain, Niu said they would think about it. He agreed to the idea of opposite governments funding for NGOs wishing to attend the NPT Review Conference in 2005.

Di McDonald, Nuclear Information Service. www.nukeinfo.org.uk