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Context of 'June 1991: US Punishes Two Chinese Companies for Missile Shipment to Pakistan'

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The US, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and 58 other countries sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The NPT’s preamble refers explicitly to the goal of a comprehensive nuclear test ban, and to the “determination expressed by the parties [to the treaty] to seek to achieve the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time.” The NPT will become effective on March 5, 1970. [Federation of American Scientists, 12/18/2007] In 2008, author J. Peter Scoblic will write that the NPT “relied heavily on appeals to national interest.” Scoblic will continue: “Given that the treaty allows five states to legally possess nuclear weapons while prohibiting the other 183 from ever developing them, why did dozens of states agree to the top-tiered, discriminatory system—a system of nuclear apartheid, as India put it (see June 20, 1996)? Because it made sense for them to do so.” The NPT gives nations a chance to opt out of nuclear arms races with their neighbors, and gives them the opportunity to share in nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Over the years, far more nations will, under the NPT, give up their nascent nuclear programs—Taiwan, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, others—than start them in defiance of the treaty. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 274-276]

Entity Tags: J. Peter Scoblic

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction, begins to track missile deals between Pakistan and China. Pakistan needs missiles from China to use as a delivery mechanism for nuclear warheads it is producing at home. Oehler begins this work shortly after being appointed to the position. He had previously worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as the superior of Richard Barlow, another US intelligence official interested in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program (see January 1989 and After). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 257] Oehler’s activities will lead to sanctions against China two years later (see June 1991).

Entity Tags: Gordon Oehler

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

China begins to supply the M-11 missile, which is capable of carrying nuclear warheads, to Pakistan. However, the Chinese had apparently started supplying missile technology to the Pakistanis some time before this (see June 23, 1983 and 1989). The US has been tracking Pakistani-Chinese missile deals and the White House becomes aware of these transactions, but no action is taken. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment on the rationale for the inaction, “Despite overwhelming evidence from satellite overheads, human intelligence, and reconnaissance aircraft, Washington held back from intervening, fearing an impasse at a time when the White House was trying to better relations with Beijing, with an eye to the rapidly expanding power of the Chinese consumer who, it was hoped, would be allowed to purchase imported US goods.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 257]

Entity Tags: White House, Adrian Levy, Pakistan, Catherine Scott-Clark, United States, China

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

The US imposes sanctions on two Chinese companies for their part in nuclear proliferation activities. The sanctions are the product of work by Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction. Oehler has been tracking missile deals between China and Pakistan for two years (see 1989) and finds out about the companies’ involvement in a shipment to Pakistan of a “training M-11 ballistic missile.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 257]

Entity Tags: Gordon Oehler

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

China signs the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (see July 1, 1968). At the same time, it signs the Missile Technology Control Regime, a multinational agreement aimed at restricting missile sales. One result is that the US waives sanctions imposed on two Chinese companies the previous year for shipping a nuclear-capable missile to Pakistan (see June 1991). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 257, 511] However, China will make another missile shipment to Pakistan a few weeks later (see (April 1992)).

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

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

The CIA reports that in the last three months China has delivered missile parts to Pakistan that can be used in the M-11 missile. China has been shipping missiles to Pakistan for some time (see 1989 and 1991). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 512]

Entity Tags: Pakistan, Central Intelligence Agency, China

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

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