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Volume 2, No. 11                June 29, 1998
June 25 House Science Committee Hearing: "China: Dual-Use Technology"

Last Thursday's House Science Committee hearing was supposed to shed light on the dual-use nature of civil space technologies transferred to China, according to Science Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). But it quickly eroded into a debate over export-control policies of the Clinton Administration and the possible illegal transfer by Loral/Hughes of technical information to Chinese authorities.

Questions by members of the committee directed to the witnesses were highly partisan, with Republicans trying to score points at President Clinton's expense and Democrats defending the Administration's policies. The following is a synopsis of the testimony:

Gary Milhollin, Director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control

China has come under heavy criticism for transferring rocket technology to Pakistan. But the "first rockets in both India and Pakistan were launched by NASA under a policy of peaceful space cooperation," Milhollin told the committee. "The result of that cooperation," he explained, "has been long- range missiles tipped with nuclear warheads."

Milhollin said India's largest nuclear missile is an "international product." The first stage is a copy of the American Scout rocket, the design of which was provided by NASA to Indian officials. The second stage is "based on a surface-to-air missile...that India bought from Russia," he said. Knowledge about liquid propulsion was provided by France. And the German Space Agency contributed tutorials on designing a guidance system. It also "helped India build test facilities, and trained Indians in the use of the special composite materials needed to make rocket nozzles and nose cones."

The U.S. also provided assistance to Pakistan and China. "NASA launched Pakistan's first rocket, a U.S. made Nike-Cajun," Milhollin explained. And "American universities taught many of China's leading scientists how to make better long-range missiles."

Oren Phillips, Vice President for Business Development for Thiokol Propulsion
During the Cold War, about three-quarters of Thiokol's propulsion business was defense related, with the remaining amount in the commercial and civil space market. Today the ratio is reversed, Phillips said, with Thiokol actively seeking foreign customers. The company is working with Japan to provide new propulsion systems for its launch vehicles, as well as "working with companies in Spain, France, and Germany and elsewhere to sell boosters that will be used on their launch vehicles and potentially launched from U.S. spaceports."

Thiokol's biggest worry is competition from the "non-market economies of Russia, China, and Ukraine," Phillips stated. "The current policies of the U.S. government, and the global pursuits of the U.S. launch vehicle industry, help to preserve and expand the Russian and Chinese strategic missile design and manufacturing capability at the expense of our own similar capability," Phillips warned. With each launch in China, Phillips said they "become a little smarter, a little more capable, a little more reliable, and ultimately more competitive. In the final analysis," he explained, "we are directly strengthening non-market economy countries' space launch capability and indirectly strengthening their strategic missile capability while damaging our own."

Paul Ross, Group Vice President at Alliant Techsystems
The Chinese launch vehicle industry, Ross testified, "has demonstrated a willingness to substantially undercut U.S. domestic launch vehicle pricing of satellite launchers." What this means for U.S. companies such as Alliant is simple arithmetic, Ross ventured. "More U.S. satellites on Chinese launch vehicles," he said, "means fewer on U.S. domestic launch vehicles."

In summary, Ross pointed out that "the U.S. space launch and strategic industrial bases are one and the same. A loss of satellite launch business to foreign competition diminishes companies that support the U.S. strategic deterrent, while at the same time subsidizing the development of a foreign capability. We experience a loss of our strategic capability and business while theirs grow."

John Pike, Director, Space Policy Project, Federation of American Scientists
China has a relatively small number of medium and long-range missiles tipped with nuclear weapons. Since 1981, it has been able to target U.S. cities with five-megaton "city busting" warheads. China is now modernizing its forces and, by the turn of the century, is expected to field a three-stage, solid-fueled ICBM with a one-megaton warhead. (Air Force General Eugene Habiger stated on March 31, 1998, that the missiles will be equipped with multiple warheads.)

Pike testified that the "recent exchanges between American and Chinese companies may have resulted in the transfer of technical information of some military significance." But he claimed that "China has no capabilities to attack the United States that it did not have a year ago, or a decade ago."

"The launch of several Motorola Iridium communications satellites on a Chinese launch vehicle," Pike said, "did not contribute to Chinese capabilities to launch multiple warheads on its missiles, but rather reflected existing Chinese capabilities, both for launching multiple satellites and multiple warheads."

According to Pike, "on balance the course taken in this decade with respect to the Chinese launch vehicle has had diverse benefits and manageable risks." U.S. policies, he said, have "strengthened the American satellite industry, enhancing our global dominance of this strategic sector and in the process increasing the diversity and capability of communications available to our military forces world wide."

Leon McKinney, President of McKinney Associates
McKinney, an aerospace engineer who previously was a systems performance analyst at McDonnell Douglas, testified that "it would have been of immense help to Chinese engineers to have American engineers, with knowledge about similar launch vehicle failures, make suggestions or ask particular questions about this or that vehicle subsystem."

In October of 1996, NASA began discussions with China about the possibility of expanding cooperation in Earth science. Areas for potential cooperation are atmospheric science, land-cover and land-use change, natural hazards, solid Earth science and geodynamics, calibration and validation of new Earth science sensors and data sets, and topographic mapping.

"Should the earth science data packages contain for example, the detailed models of atmospheric winds developed by the U.S. over the past decades, or the equally detailed models of the earth's geodesics," McKinney said, "then the Chinese would be receiving valuable scientific data which would definitely improve the accuracy of their launch vehicles and missiles."


About the NSS Capital Capsule
The Capsule is a timely report of highlights from Capitol Hill hearings and other events involving space issues. Prepared by NSS staff or volunteers who attend in person, the Capsule provides NSS members and activists an "insider's" look into the thoughts of our national elected officials on space issues.

The National Space Society is an independent, nonprofit space advocacy group with headquarters in Washington, DC. Its 23,000 members and 90 chapters actively promote the creation of a spacefaring civilization.


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