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China Says It Has Stopped Selling Silkworm Missiles

November 18, 1987|United Press International

BEIJING — China has halted international sales of Silkworm missiles, which have been used by Iran against U.S. shipping in the Persian Gulf, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said today.

"We have taken measures to prevent Chinese-made missiles entering the international market," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Yuzhen said in answer to a question at a weekly press briefing.

Washington has accused Beijing of supplying surface-to-surface Silkworm missiles to Iran, including one that hit an American reflagged tanker last month.

"China sells no weapons to Iran, including missiles," Ma said.

Beijing assured visiting U.S. Undersecretary of State Michael Armacost earlier this month that China would take strict measures to prevent the "diversion" of Silkworms to Iran.

China has repeatedly denied it is supplying arms to Tehran in the 7-year-old Iran-Iraq War, even though U.S. officials say they have evidence that China first sold Silkworms to the Khomeini government under a 1984 contract worth $1.6 billion.

Administration officials say they have obtained photographs of ships loading weapons in China and unloading their cargo in Iran.

U.S. estimates place the number of Silkworms in Iranian hands at more than 30. An intelligence source in Washington said last month that China was pressing ahead with a second sale of Silkworms whose initial deliveries could number more than 100.

U.S. analysts said the Silkworms pose a direct threat to Navy ships escorting reflagged tankers through the Persian Gulf. During two recent weeks, Iran hit two tankers docked in Kuwaiti waters and a loading platform at a Kuwaiti oil terminal.

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