Accused Proliferator May Try to Build Ballistic-Missile Parts

An Iranian Shahab 3 ballistic missile, shown on display in Tehran in 2010. A new analysis suggests an accused Chinese-born proliferator may intend to manufacture guidance components for ballistic missiles.
An Iranian Shahab 3 ballistic missile, shown on display in Tehran in 2010. A new analysis suggests an accused Chinese-born proliferator may intend to manufacture guidance components for ballistic missiles. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

An alleged kingpin proliferator may be moving to build his own components for guiding ballistic missiles to their targets, British-based experts say.

Newly uncovered information suggests Chinese businessman Li Fangwei has obtained substantial stakes in graphite operations and other sensitive enterprises, possibly indicating an ambition to build fiber-optic gyroscopes, says a Monday report by Daniel Salisbury and Ian Stewart of King's College London.

Li has previously faced charges for attempting to supply Iran with the systems, described by the authors as "one of the most advanced guidance technologies with potential uses in missiles."

His new apparent steps may reflect an effort to "move up the proliferation value chain," the analysts wrote. "Any move by Li to manufacture such technology in light of other concerns about his activities must be viewed as a grave threat to international peace and security."

The United States has targeted a series of Li's firms over the last decade for allegedly supplying missile components to Iran, and last month offered up to $5 million for information leading to the Chinese national's arrest or conviction.

Washington's latest steps against Li prompted strong protests from Beijing, which threatened to retaliate by reining in its coordination with the United States on nonproliferation matters.

"Not since [Abdul Qadeer] Khan has a manufacturer of proliferation-sensitive technologies so brazenly and repeatedly sold their goods for use in prohibited programs," Salisbury and Stewart wrote, referencing a former Pakistani scientist who sold nuclear-weapon technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

May 20, 2014
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An alleged kingpin proliferator may be moving to build his own components for guiding ballistic missiles to their targets, British-based experts say.

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