The Chinese government Thursday condemned a Pentagon report accusing China of selling ballistic missiles or nuclear technology in defiance of non-proliferation agreements.
"The accusations in the reports are groundless and highly irresponsible," Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said.
Zhu also expressed China's concern about the consequences of NATO's use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions in the Balkans.
He said China had always stood for the comprehensive prohibition and thorough destruction of all weapons of mass destruction, abiding by international obligations and commitments.
The Pentagon report, entitled "Proliferation: Threat and Response," alleges that a dozen countries are pursuing offensive biological and chemical weapons programmes, mainly with help emanating from Russia and China.
"I think you all know whom the biggest weapon dealer in the world is," Zhu said.
Commenting on reports about the after effects of DU shells, Zhu said China is very concerned about the use of such bombs and the humanitarian problems they may have caused.
"China has always opposed NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo conflict in 1999," Zhu said, adding that the country had taken note of NATO's pledge to fully investigate concerns about munitions as a growing number of suspicious deaths and illnesses among peacekeepers in the Balkans emerge.
The use of DU in NATO weapons directed at Yugoslav army targets in Kosovo has come under fire following reports that six Italian soldiers who served in the region have developed leukemia.
According to defence experts, depleted uranium is used in the tips of missiles, shells and bullets to boost their ability to penetrate armour. On impact, they can smash and produce toxic radioactive dust that contaminates the air, soil and water supplies.
Turning to a recent consultation among the directors of the International Departments of the Foreign Ministries of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council held in Shanghai, Zhu said China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the US held wide and in-depth exchanges of views on a series of issues ranging from the follow-up actions of the five permanent member summit, the Iraqi question and the Brahimi Report (on UN peace-keeping operations) in the Middle East.
Zhu indicated that as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China attaches great importance to the work of the UN in peacekeeping, and has made its own contribution.
He stressed that peacekeeping operations were important for the UN to carry out its responsibility for maintaining world peace and security. He said the leading role of the UN in this regard could not be replaced.
Since the 1990s, China has sent 500 military observers to the relevant UN peacekeeping operations. It sent an engineering team of 800 people to Cambodia and 55 civilian policemen to the UN administrative authorities in East Timor. On January 4 this year, the Chinese government again sent five civilian peacekeeping policemen to the UN mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
"China is willing to make continued contributions to the UN peacekeeping operation in the future," the spokesman said.
(China Daily 01/12/2001)