The United States embassy cables released by WikiLeaks have revealed key differences between the U.S. and China over proliferation issues, with Beijing being accused of repeatedly failing to stop shipments of ballistic missile components from North Korea to Iran.
Several leaked cables suggested the U.S. had intelligence that shipments of missile parts were being directed to Iran on commercial flights from North Korea that passed unchecked through Beijing airport. The U.S. had voiced displeasure that more than 10 such deliveries had taken place without being stopped.
Other revelations in the cables will likely displease China, such as one accusation by a U.S. diplomat that the Chinese Communist Party's Polit Bureau had directly ordered hacking attacks on Google. The diplomat's claim was, however, cited without any evidence, being attributed to one unknown Chinese “contact”. China has strongly denied its government's involvement in the hacking attacks.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not respond to the any of the allegations on Monday, but is expected to issue a statement on Tuesday. The Chinese media had been instructed by the Propaganda Department to not report on any disclosures involving China, according to sources at two newspapers.
One embassy cable from November 2007 signed by the then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sent an “urgent action request” to Beijing to stop the transport of missile jet vanes from North Korea to an Iranian company which runs its missile programme. The cables did not say if Beijing had acted on any of the requests to stop shipments.
Another cable said the U.S. had information that a Chinese firm, Zhejiang Dali Technology, was “actively selling thermal imaging systems to Iranian defence entities.” The cable sent to the French government said Zhejiang Dali was buying cooled and uncooled infrared detectors from the French firm Sofradir, and then incorporated them to thermal imaging systems that were sold to Iranian defence entities.
The deals, the U.S. said, were increasing “the threat to US and allied forces operating in the Gulf region”. “We want to request the Government of France to act immediately to terminate this activity by Sofradir and Ulis so China cannot use French components to manufacture weapons systems and sell them to Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism,” said the cable.
Another cable said the U.S. had information that in December 2009, a Hong Kong company offered to sell Russian-made gyroscopes to Iran to be delivered in February, which “potentially could be diverted to missile-related end-users.”
Descriptions of other internal meetings will likely embarrass China, such as its Ambassador in Kyrgyzstan citing possible “revolutions” against the Communist Party and widespread unemployment in China as a defence against allegations made by the U.S. that China was giving the Kyrgyz government $3 billion to close down a U.S. airbase.
When presented with the accusation, the cable said the Chinese Ambassador became “visibly flustered” and “temporarily lost the ability to speak Russian and began spluttering in Chinese”. “It would take $3 from every Chinese person” to pay for it, he replied in undiplomatic language. “If our people found out, there'd be a revolution.. We have 200 million people unemployed” because of the downturn and “millions of disabled and others who need help from the government,” said the cable.
Another cable of a G5 meeting in Beijing said Chinese authorities in western Gansu province, which borders Tibet, had detained a British Consul and expressed anger over officials visiting Tibetan regions.
The same cable described Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao as being “tired and seemed under a lot of pressure” during a meeting with the then Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso. But President Hu Jintao, said the cable, was “relaxed and confident”.