Published On: Fri, Mar 8th, 2024

China is ‘helping Pakistan to build nuclear weapons’ | World | News

CHINA has been surreptitiously supplying Pakistan with key elements for its nuclear weapons programme.

It comes as Beijing, which currently in the midst of an economic crisis, seeks to find ways to replace decreasing financial leverage around the world by other means.

Concerns centres around the seizure of sophisticated so-called “dual purpose” items needed by Pakistan to enhance its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

In the last case, two advanced Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines manufactured by Italian firm GKD and bound for the port of Karachi were seized by Indian customs at Mumbai Port in January, according to recently released disclosure.

North Korea also has been using smuggled CNC machines for its nuclear program.

According to the falsified bill of lading, the items were being shipped from “Shanghai JXE Global Logistics Co Ltd” and the consignee was listed as “Pakistan Wings Pvt Ltd”.

In fact, the items shipped on a Malta-flagged merchant vessel came from Shekou Port in China, and were heading to Karachi and into the hands of Pakistan defence manufacturer Cosmos Engineering.

An intelligence tip -off alerted Indian authorities, who seized the vessel and its contents as it reached Nhava Sheva Port in Mumbai on January 22.

Cosmos Engineering has been on an Indian customs watch list since March 2022, when they tried to acquire “thermo-electric instruments’ from another Italian firm in a delivery which was also intercepted. The dual use parts siezed are believed to be useful in the manufacturing of critical parts for Pakistan’s missile development programme, Indian sources said, adding that the consignment had been been inspected by a team of experts from the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

In February 2020 it was uncovered that China was supplying “Autoclave” to Pakistan.

Autoclave – which was deliberately mislabeled as “Industrial Dryer” – is a pressure chamber which can be used in the launch process of ballistic missiles. It was seized from a concealed cargo hold on a Chinese ship carrying a Hong Kong flag bound for Pakistan’s Port Qasim.

Last year Pakistan held a groundbreaking ceremony for what will be its largest civil nuclear power plant — constructed by China — that will contribute 1,200 megawatts of electricity daily to the national grid and is estimated to cost at least $3.5 billion.

But the latest seizure strengthens fears that Pakistan is deliberately flouting the terms of several non-proliferation treaties – albeit none that it has signed up to.

The US and its allies have long been partnering to contain nuclear weapon expansion, with the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) launched in 2003, and with some 111 countries ‘endorsing’ the move which is a non-treaty based voluntary effort to interdict and share information on any proliferation activities.

In 2016 India joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) which also allows it access to sensitive technologies and makes it part of the non-proliferation effort.

And it is also part of the Wassenaar Arrangement, which is a node for curbing industrial technology for proliferation, which is chaired last year.

The Wassenaar Arrangement is one of the global export control regimes designed to stop proliferation of dual-use items that have both civilian and military applications.

China is not a member of either treaty, but claims to adhere to its guidelines.

The trend has also caused concerned in Europe.

In June last year, an official report released by the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg highlighted, “Iran, Pakistan, North Korea and Syria are still pursuing such efforts. They aim to complete existing arsenals, perfect the range, deployability and effectiveness of their weapons and develop new weapons systems. They are trying to obtain the necessary products and relevant know-how, inter alia, through illegal procurement efforts in Germany.”

The move also directly violates US sanctions.

The US Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has sanctioned three Chinese companies: General Technology Limited (the Autoclave supplier to Pakistan), Beijing Luo Luo Technology Development, and Changzhou Utek Composite Company for its involvement in supplying suspected missile components to Pakistan.

China’s assistance to Pakistan works in two ways, sources say.

One is through the supply of sensitive materials and equipment for its nuclear weapons programme.

The second is to act as a conduit to cure Pakistan with dual-use items from third nations in Europe or the US.

Last night Hans Horan, Senior Geopolitical Risk Analyst for the Proximities strategic risk group, said: “There is a growing anti-Chinese sentiment in Pakistan, but it is not being reflected by the country’s ruling classes, who have overseen £40bn worth of Chinese investment in the country over the last decade.

“In Pakistan the military and political spheres are separate entities which are not necessarily in line with each other. This gives China direct access to the military, with which it has aligned itself over the last few years.”

And for Beijing, the aim was to create a new bargaining tool.

“China needs to make sure that its economic investments in Pakistan remain protected from rising anti-China sentiment among the general population,” he said.

“In addition, Beijing is also fearful that its global economic clout is diminishing. It is experiencing an economic crunch we did not expect to see for another 30 years.

“Its economic output has dropped dramatically, it is facing a housing collapse, a shrinking middle class, growing unrest and a demographic time bomb. it needs to make sure that Pakistan remains an economic ally and is willing to do what it takes to ensure this.”

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