Not-so-hidden dragon

Posted: Jan 04, 2002 12:00 AM
If Pakistan and India go to nuclear war in coming days, each country will be blamed for precipitating that calamity. The real responsibility, however, will lie elsewhere -- with Communist China. After all, it was the People's Republic that put Pakistan in the atomic weapons business. Had it not been for Chinese know-how, personnel and technology, Islamabad would almost certainly not have "the Bomb" today. Beijing and its North Korean proxy have also been instrumental in Pakistan's ballistic missile delivery systems for such weapons. According to the Washington Times' Bill Gertz, Chinese-supplied M-11 missiles -- which the Pakistanis have renamed the Shaheen and armed with atomic if not crude thermonuclear weapons -- have been readied for use against India. To be sure, even if China not decided years ago to play the Pakistani "card" against the PRC's democratic enemy, India, by arming the Paks to the teeth, the present circumstances in Kashmir may still have produced yet another war between the two countries. But it would almost certainly have remained conventional in character, and the casualties on both sides relatively small. Unfortunately, China's rampant proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has not only brought democratic India to the brink of nuclear war with her neighbor. According to the Associated Press, the Pakistani government recently detained two individuals, Sultan Bashir-ud- Din Mahmood and Abdul Majid, "on suspicion of sharing technical information with [Osama] bin Laden. They worked for Pakistan's Atomic Energy Commission until retiring in 1999." Evidence accumulating from liberated enemy compounds, bunkers and hard drives attests to the keen interest bin Laden and Company have had in acquiring weapons of mass destruction [WMD]. It is hard to believe that Chinese-trained and -empowered Pakistanis, who were clearly sympathetic to his cause, were not forthcoming. If so, Americans may have even more direct reason to fear the effects of the PRC's nuclear trade than deadly Indo-Pakistani missile duels. Matters are made even worse by the prospect that Pakistan has acted upon its longstanding desire to be the source of the "the Islamic Bomb." Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Algeria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are among the countries of the Muslim world who would love to get their hands on the technology and materials needed to put themselves into the atomic or nuclear weapons business. Islamabad may well have served as a willing cut-out for Chinese help to some or all of these nations, and perhaps others as well. Of these, Iraq is probably the most dangerous in the near-term. Baghdad's ever- increasing WMD inventory -- and Saddam Hussein's willingness to use them -- is the subject of a compelling new study by Dr. Kathleen Bailey entitled "Iraq's Asymmeteric Threat to the United States and U.S. Allies," (published by the National Institute for Public Policy.) The threat posed by Iraq is compelling the Bush Administration, finally, to bring about the end to Saddam's reign of terror against his own people and others around the world. The increasingly compelling, if circumstantial, evidence of Iraqi involvement in recent terrorist acts against the United States -- the subject of a newly released book, The War Against America: Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center Attacks,by Dr. Laurie Mylroie -- makes clear that we defer such action any longer at our extreme peril. When the Administration does move against Iraq, it -- and the American people -- will be confronted once again with an unhappy reality temporarily obscured by the war on terrorism and the strange (and often unsavory) bedfellows coalition cobbled together by Secretary of State Colin Powell to prosecute it: Communist China is no friend of the United States. To the contrary, the PRC is a growing problem. Its burgeoning demand for energy has translated into troubling partnerships with unsavory regimes not only in Iraq but in Iran, Sudan and even Venezuela in our own hemisphere and imperialistic aggression in the Spratley Islands. Beijing is buying an array of advanced weapons designed by the Soviets/Russians to destroy American military hardware and personnel. And, to add insult to injury, it is seeking to underwrite such activities either directly or (given the fungibility of money) indirectly on our own capital markets, unbeknownst to most American investors. Add into the mix China's systematic dissemination of WMD technologies and delivery systems to countries we call "rogue states" and they call "clients" and you have a disaster waiting to happen. It would be reckless for America to ignore these developments -- or their longer-term implications. Still worse would be for our leaders to succumb to the siren's song emanating from "Friends of China" like former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke who recently urged President Bush (a man whose leadership Holbrooke has assiduously worked to undermine around the world) to negotiate a fourth "communique" with Beijing, based on a putative "common strategic concern [with] terrorism." Unfortunately, our strategic concern should be with a China that has been abetting terrorism in Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere for years. Beijing may want us, in the name of the war on terror, to legitimate its repression of long-suffering minorities like Muslim Uighurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong or Christians. But we must not ignore the not-so-hidden dragon role China is playing in greatly exacerbating the costs and dangers associated with that war.