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Early 1996: China Ships Centrifuge Parts to Pakistan, US Takes No Action

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)


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