Procurement: China And The Dual Use Scam

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April 26, 2012: The United States is openly accusing China of supplying North Korea's missile program with components and technology. This may have something to do with intense effort to recover components of the failed North Korean rocket launch on April 13th. The debris of the rocket fell into shallow water off the west coast of South Korea. Russian, Chinese, and American ships, and perhaps submarines, also joined the search. South Korea called off its search on the 17th but the U.S. appeared to be continuing. The water where the debris fell is no deeper than 100 meters (310 feet), making it easy to search for and recover parts of the rocket. If some of those recovered components can be identified as Chinese there could be problems. China has agreed to abide by embargos on North Korea, but Chinese firms are notorious for ignoring their government and just selling to whoever will buy. Ignoring this behavior is not official Chinese policy but accepting bribes to look the other way is a long accepted Chinese practice. If the U.S. or South Korea recover Chinese rocket components from the ocean floor China will simply deny any knowledge of Chinese firms selling rocket components to North Korea, or claim that the rocket components were dual use (which could be technically true). China may even agree to prosecute errant firms but these prosecutions are mainly for show. That approach has worked for years and it will take some hard-ball, behind-the-scenes diplomacy to force the Chinese government to act. That sometimes works but usually not for long.

The U.S. also accused China of selling North Korea a large transport vehicle that the North Koreans modified to carry their latest long-range missile in an April 15th parade. The Chinese truck manufacturer eventually admitted this and said it was not illegal because the truck was designed to haul non-military cargo but, as is the case with many "dual-use" technologies, could easily be adapted to military use. The Chinese manufacturer added that the truck in question was an excellent vehicle and there were many satisfied users.

 


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