CHINESE EXPORTS TO IRAN

An analysis by the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control

April 7, 2009

 

Today, prosecutors in New York revealed that during the past three years, Chinese firms have sold Iran materials useful for making nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. The revelations were the product of an extensive investigation into suspicious transactions that used New York banks and Chinese front companies, and that were carried out by the Chinese firm Limmt (Dalian) Metallurgy and Minerals Co., Ltd. The Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control is proud to have aided in the investigation.

Although it is uncertain what Iran actually produced with the materials it imported, Iran’s active nuclear and missile programs make the sales alarming. Many of the materials were on the list of sensitive nuclear and missile items controlled for export internationally.

According to the indictment released by the prosecutors, the following items were among those exported:

ITEMS EXPORTED

Tungsten
This material is used to make missile nose cones, missile nozzle throat inserts, and missile jet vanes (which steer the missile engine exhaust and thus guide the missile). The material is controlled for export as a powder, which can be formed into missile parts by pouring the powder into molds and sintering it.

Graphite cylinders for EDM
Liaoning Industry and Trade Co. Ltd. (a front company for Limmt) sold Iran graphite cylinders stated to be for electrical discharge machines. These machines are controlled for export because they are capable of making, with high accuracy, parts with complex forms. Such parts include explosive, hemispherical components for nuclear weapons, end caps for gas centrifuges used to enrich uranium to nuclear weapon grade or reactor grade, and crucibles for casting liquid uranium or plutonium for nuclear weapon cores. The buyer in Iran was Aban Commercial and Industrial Company.

Graphite is controlled for export as a material if it meets certain specifications that make it suitable for being manufactured into rocket nozzles and re-entry vehicle nose tips. The graphite exported to Iran met those specifications.

High-strength aluminum
Aban also ordered high-strength aluminum from Liaoning. The aluminum was of a strength sufficient to make components for gas centrifuges that enrich uranium to nuclear weapon grade or reactor grade, although considerable machining would be required to make such components. The aluminum was not controlled for export as a nuclear item because it was not in the form of tubes or cylinders. The aluminum was, however, strong enough to be on the control list of military items.

Maraging steel
SC (Dalian) Industry & Trade Co. sold Iran 25 tons of maraging steel that was apparently controlled for export for nuclear reasons. Because of its high tensile strength, maraging steel is one of the few materials strong enough to be used to make gas centrifuge parts. Gas centrifuges are, as stated above, used to enrich uranium. The buyer was the Amin Industrial Complex, which has two addresses, a telephone number, and a fax number identical to those of Khorasan Metallurgy, an Iranian firm that, according to the United Nations, produces centrifuge parts. Khorasan is linked to Iran’s Ministry of Defense and has been sanctioned (punished) by both the European Union and the United Nations.

Maraging steel can also be used to make motor cases for solid-fueled rockets, rocket propellant tanks, and rocket interstages.

COMPANIES NAMED

In addition to describing materials, the indictment contained information about Iranian companies. Three of the companies mentioned are subsidiaries of the Ammunition Industries Group (AMIG), an entity affiliated with Iran’s Ministry of Defense. AMIG is also the largest industrial group of Iran’s Defense Industries Organization (DIO). According to the United Nations, some DIO subordinates have been involved in component manufacturing for Iran’s centrifuge program. As stated above, one of the entities listed has the same contact information as Khorasan Metallurgy, including two addresses, one telephone number and one fax number.

Shahid Sayyade Shirazi Industries
This company is a subsidiary of the Ammunition Industries Group (AMIG), which is the largest industrial group of Iran’s Defense Industries Organization (DIO) and affiliated with the Ministry of Defense. Both DIO and AMIG (along with entities they own or control, or those acting on their behalf or at their direction) have been sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council, the European Union and the United States for their links to proliferation. Some DIO subordinates have been "involved in Iran's centrifuge program making components," and in Iran's missile program, according to the U.N. Security Council. Composite rotors for the P-2 centrifuge have been manufactured in a workshop situated on a DIO site, and several DIO workshops help produce centrifuge components. This company also “produces large caliber items and their cartridge cases,” according to the AMIG web site. Its parent AMIG manufactures ammunition, mortar bombs, pyrotechnics, anti-tank and sea mines, hand grenades and detonators, and DIO produces an array of defense equipment.

Yazd Metallurgy Industries
This company too is a subsidiary of the Ammunition Industries Group (AMIG).

Khorasan Metallurgy
This company has been sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council and the European Union for links to proliferation, as stated above. Khorasan is a subsidiary of the Ammunition Industries Group (AMIG), and is involved in the production of centrifuge components, according to the United Nations. It also manufactures cutting tools and products such as drills, milling cutters, taps, reamers, and compound tools.

Amin Industrial Complex
As stated above, this company shares a fax number and a P.O. Box with Khorasan Metallurgy Industries, as well as a street address and telephone number.

INDICTMENT

LIMMT Dalian Metallurgy & Minerals Co.
The prosecutors indicted one Chinese entity, LIMMT Dalian Metallurgy & Minerals Co. This company had already been sanctioned by the United States in February 2009 for engaging in proliferation activities, and was added to the Specially Designated National list maintained by the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control on June 13, 2006. According to the Treasury Department, during the year prior to its designation the company supplied, or attempted to supply, "controlled items" to "Iran's military and missile organizations.” This company was also listed by the Japanese government in 2007 as an entity of concern for proliferation relating to missiles and it was sanctioned by the United States in 2004 and 2005 under the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000. LIMMT is also known as Dalian Sunny Industries, LIMMT (Dalian FTZ) Economic and Trade Organization, LIMMT Economic and Trade Company Ltd., and LIMMT (Dalian FTZ) Minmetals and Metallurgy Co., Ltd.