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Context of 'April 1997: Official Tells Senate Committee Administration Is Covering Up Chinese Missile Sales to Pakistan'

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A few weeks after China signs the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the Missile Technology Control Regime, it ships 34 nuclear-capable missiles to Pakistan. The shipment is tracked by Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction. Analysis of spy satellite photographs even tells Oehler exactly where the missiles are in Pakistan—Sargodha Air Force Base. President Clinton is briefed on the developments, but no action against Pakistan or China is taken at this time. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 257-258]

Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Gordon Oehler

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

China begins to provide assistance to Pakistan with the construction of a plant to manufacture missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. China has been supplying missiles to Pakistan for some time (see 1989 and 1991), and the plant is to produce a generic version of one of the Chinese missiles that is being delivered, the M-11. The facility is to be operated by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, which is run by Dr. Samar Mubarakmand. Blueprints of the M-11 will be used to produce a Pakistani version of the missile called the Hatf 3, which will have a range of 150 miles. US intelligence picks up on these developments, and they are reported to Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction. Estimates indicate that if the rapid progress is maintained, the facility will be completed by 1998. In addition, Oehler warns his superiors that if Pakistan does succeed in building the missiles and loading nuclear warheads onto them, it will probably sell this technology to other countries. However, the Clinton administration takes no action on this intelligence at this time. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment: “If the president accepted the assessment, he would have to impose sanctions that would potentially cost American companies billions of dollars in lost revenues if Beijing lashed out at being censured by Washington—particularly Boeing, which was negotiating a major contract with the Chinese aviation industry, and Westinghouse Electric Corporation, which had a valuable deal with the China National Nuclear Corporation. However, not to act on Oehler’s analysis, backed as it was by hard intelligence, would have enhanced Pakistan’s nuclear capability, to the detriment of India.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 257]

Entity Tags: Samar Mubarakmand, China, Clinton administration, Gordon Oehler, United States, Pakistan, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

China ships centrifuge parts to Pakistan to aid that country’s nuclear weapons program. The parts are 5,000 ring magnets, shipped by the China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation to Karachi. They are for use in the suspension bearings of centrifuge rotors. The US learns of this shipment, and one of the officials who works on the case is Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction. Reportedly, CIA Director John Deutch also learns of the deal and tells a meeting at the White House that Chinese officials have approved it. Oehler, who has been arguing for sanctions on China because of its support for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program for some time, thinks that the administration will now have to apply sanctions. However, the Clinton administration does not act on the intelligence. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will later ask “officials in the State Department familiar with the deal” why no action was taken. One of the officials will say: “China did not respond well to sanctions. We tried: they achieved nothing. So, we did—well, nothing.” News of the deal is soon leaked to the US press. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 259, 512]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Central Intelligence Agency, Gordon Oehler, China, John Deutch, China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

The US State Department releases a report saying the Chinese government is not supplying equipment for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. The report was drafted in response to a leak to the press saying that the US administration knew the Chinese government had signed off on the sale of Chinese magnets for Pakistani centrifuges (see Early 1996). However, the report says there is “no evidence that the Chinese government had wilfully aided or abetted Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program through the magnet transfer.” Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment, “It flew in the face of the truth—in the same way that Bush officials had claimed F-16s could not be used to deploy a nuclear bomb” (see August-September 1989). Levy and Scott-Clark will add that Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction, is “furious” with the report and the lack of sanctions imposed on the Chinese. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 259]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, China, Gordon Oehler

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

China sells Pakistan a special industrial furnace for moulding uranium, as well as advanced diagnostic equipment. The equipment is for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and is installed at Khan Research Laboratories in Kahuta by Chinese technicians. The US discovers the sale, and one of the officials who receives a report on it and passes this on is Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction. However, the US takes no action against the Chinese over the transfer. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 259, 512]

Entity Tags: Kahuta Research Laboratories, China, Gordon Oehler

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction, appears before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. At a closed hearing he tells it that the administration has intelligence showing that China is shipping nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan, but the administration is covering this up (see (April 1992), (Mid-1990s), Early 1996, May 1996, and September 1996). Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will say that by this time Oehler has “had enough” of the administration ignoring his work documenting the deals between China and Pakistan. “There was no consistent policy emerging,” they will write. “There was no strategy even. There was no considered attempt to rein China in or to tackle Pakistan, which was getting increasingly out of hand. There was just a steady drip, drip of doomsday technology from China to Pakistan and from Pakistan to—no one was exactly sure how many countries.” Therefore, Oehler makes the attempt to get the Senate to do something. Levy and Scott-Clark will say he found “the softest way he could to contradict his superiors short of becoming a whistle-blower.” However, no action is taken against China or Pakistan, and Oehler soon resigns (see October 1997). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 259-260]

Entity Tags: Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, China, Pakistan, Gordon Oehler

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction, resigns from his position, taking early retirement. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will say that Oehler is “exhausted and cynical” by this time. This is because he has frequently warned of the dangers of allowing China to proliferate nuclear weapons technology, but the administration has not done anything about it (see (April 1992), (Mid-1990s), Early 1996, May 1996, and September 1996). A senior non-proliferation official in the State Department will later say Oehler “kind of set down an ultimatum” that was ignored, “and he felt he had to walk.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 260, 512]

Entity Tags: Gordon Oehler

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

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