Cohen says China hardens promise to end missiles sales to Iran

BEIJING (AP) — At U.S. urging, China has hardened the assurance it gave President Clinton last fall that it will not sell Iran more missiles capable of disrupting the flow of Persian Gulf oil, Defense Secretary William Cohen said Tuesday.
“There will be no new sales, no transfers of technology, no technical cooperation that could give Iran an ability to upgrade current (missile) systems,” Cohen told reporters after a 65-minute meeting with President Jiang Zemin.
Later, after Cohen flew to Tokyo for talks with top Japanese government officials Tuesday evening, aides to the defense secretary said Jiang did not explicitly state his government’s policy on anti-ship cruise missile sales to Iran.
The aides, speaking on condition they not be identified, said Cohen told Jiang that Gen. Chi Haotian, the defense minister, had told him on Monday that China would stop all exports of cruise missiles to Iran. Jiang did not disagree, and Cohen interpreted that as confirmation of Chi’s statement, the aides said.
In an interview with reporters flying with him to Tokyo immediately after the Jiang meeting, Cohen said China had gone beyond the assurances Jiang had offered to Clinton in Washington last October. At that summit meeting, Jiang had said China had “no intention” of selling more missiles to Iran, but Cohen wanted to use his Beijing meetings this week to extract a firmer pledge on Iran.
In the interview, Cohen described Jiang’s assurance as “a pledge coming from the very highest official confirming and deepening the commitment that was made during his visit to Washington; we accept that he is the one who is leading his country.”