Missile Technology Control Regime: Impact Assessment

Savita Pande ,Research Fellow, IDSA


Early Developments

In the early 1950s and late 1960s, the United States supplied short- range Honest John missiles to Greece,Turkey, South Korea and Taiwan just as the Soviet Union was sending short-range FROG-4 or FROG-5 missiles to Algeria, Egypt and other countries.1 From the early 1960s onwards, the United States transferred technical data on sounding rockets and space launch vehicles (the equivalent of short-range and intermediate-range missiles respectively) as well as complete sounding rockets to other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) members, and to Argentina, Brazil, India, South Korea, Mexico, Pakistan and Taiwan; the former Soviet Union and West European states undertook similar technology transfers.2 In addition to their space technology transfers, both superpowers exported ballistic missiles. Washington also aided missile programmes in Britain and France, and transferred Lance missiles to its NATO allies.

However, the Middle East missile race began in earnest with Israel's launching of the solid-fuel Shavit meteorological rocket in 1961, and with plans for a more ambitious missile development programme. An agreement was signed with the French Dassault for the development of missiles, but only two missiles could be developed owing to the French missile embargo on Israel following the 1967 War. With assistance from the US in developing the warhead and guidance package, Israel developed its own Jericho missile and deployed it in 1968.3

The Arab states were also involved in their own missile development and acquisition programmes. Egyptian President Nasser hired 80 West German "rocket specialists" in the early 1960s, but the three rockets they developed never went into production. The Germans also failed—in the form of the Munich-based Orbital Transport and Raketen Aktien Gesellschaft (ORTAG)—to develop a small commercial launch vehicle for Zaire, Libya, Syria, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia from 1974 to 1981. Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya and South Yemen then turned to the Soviets, from whom they purchased missiles.

From the early 1970s onwards, the US policy on transferring nuclear and space technology (Atoms for Peace Initiative) gradually became more restrictive, for commercial and other reasons, ostensibly including national security.4 In the period 1978-81, four events that illustrated the potential of developing countries to build missiles "increased concerns" in US policy making circles about the growing availability of, and interest in, rocket technology. These included South Korea's 1978 test of a surface-to-surface missile; Iraq's bid to purchase rocket stages from Italy, discovered in 1979; India's launch of satellites in 1980; and the German firm OTRAC's (unsuccessful) test of a rocket stage in Libya in 1981.5

In November 1982, President Reagan signed the National Security Decision Directive (NSDD-70) calling for investigation of the ways to control missile proliferation.6 That year, Washington initiated talks with other G-7 members on the subject of missile proliferation; these talks led to the informal establishment of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in 1985. On April 16, 1987, the establishment the MTCR was publicly announced; by targetting nuclear weapon delivery systems (that is ballistic missiles), the MTCR demonstrated a new twist to the arms control regime, which had hitherto been focussed on nuclear weapons. Yet another paradigm shift was the shift from control to denial.

As for the declared purpose, according to the Guidelines, the MTCR's original purpose was to reduce the risks of nuclear proliferation by placing controls on the equipment and technology transfers which contribute to the development of unmanned nuclear-weapon delivery systems. Over time, that goal was expanded to limit the risks of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by controlling transfers that could make a contribution to delivery systems for such weapons.7 It cannot be denied that the obvious purpose of the regime was to control missile capabilities of countries, including indigenous programmes. It is, therefore, not without significance that since 1993, the United States has insisted that states wishing to join the MTCR give up their offensive missile programmes as a condition for their joining the MTCR.8


In the late 1980s, three events—the use by Iran and Iraq of missiles against each other's cities in 1987-88, China's sale of 2,500 km range CSS-2 missiles to Saudi Arabia, and increasing knowledge about the joint Argentina-Egypt-Iraq Condor missile project--heightened concerns about missile proliferation, and in turn spurred on efforts to expand the MTCR. An early priority for the MTCR members was to bring all European Union (EU) nations into the MTCR before the removal of intra-EU trade barriers. Although most European governments joined the MTCR, they were initially inclined to continue their space technology exports. For example, in late 1989, overriding US objections, France insisted on proceeding with the sale of liquid fuel technology to Brazil's space agency, a contract that was eventually suspended in 1991 after protracted negotiations with Washington.

Moscow was initially reluctant to join the MTCR because it disagreed with the regime's exclusive focus on technology denial, having itself been subject to a technology embargo under CoCom. Moscow supported supplier controls but desired that these be supplemented with a broader technology transfer regime such as the World Space Organisation that would link "states with the advanced technological base of missile production".9 By 1990, Moscow became more supportive of the MTCR, reportedly on account of the so-called greater thaw in US-Soviet relations, the continued US pressure to comply with the MTCR, the detrimental political and diplomatic consequences arising from the use of Soviet-supplied missiles, and because the Soviet territory was increasingly falling within the range of ballistic missiles originating in the Middle East.10 In June 1990, the then Soviet Union agreed to adhere to the MTCR Guidelines. Moscow's formal membership to the MTCR was delayed because of a problem in intelligence sharing between Moscow and the West, and because of Moscow's space technology exports. In 1990-92, Russia sought to transfer cryogenic rocket engines to India which resulted in imposition of sanctions on both the countries by the US. Washington finally approved Russia's membership in 1995. Despite this, reports of Russian plans to supply missiles to Iran continue. According to Western media reports, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) is transferring secret missile technology to Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security under work done at joint research centres at Tehran and St Petersburg.11 The US has attempted to use the carrot and stick policy to deal with the issue. Russia, for instance, was offered a deal by the US in March 1998, whereby it would be able to launch more foreign satellites if it limits the sale of missile technology to Iran. The offer could be worth million of dollars to both US and Russian companies.12 At the same time, the Lott Liberman Bill proposed to apply sanctions against Russian companies for engaging in missile cooperation with Iran which would herald funds--among others, funds for the Russian space agency. Russia, on its part has denied any such venture.13 In February 1999, American special envoy Robert Gallucci said that there had been no progress in the past six months in persuading Russia to stop transfers of missile and WMD technology to Iran.14

China initially stayed out of the MTCR for a number of economic and ideological reasons. In the late 1980s, China's Defence Ministry was pursuing the development of the M-series missiles specifically for export. Beijing also preferred to maintain sovereignty and control over all aspects of arms trade and declared that it was in no way less responsible than the West in its approach to arms sales.15 Further, Beijing expressed annoyance at being asked to conform to rules when it was left out of negotiations that created these regulations. Finally, Beijing questioned the rationale behind restricting trade only in ballistic missiles when trade in another nuclear weapon delivery system--military aircraft--was not restricted. According to Hua Di, US pressure on China (in the form of trade sanctions, such as those imposed in June 1991 against the sale of high speed computers and satellite parts to China) and the boom of the Chinese economy (which made China less reliant on arms sales as a source of revenue) caused Beijing to reconsider its position towards the MTCR.16

Generally speaking, Chinese participation in global non-proliferaion regimes has been steadily increasing from the early 1990s onwards.17 In late 1991, Beijing agreed to support the MTCR conditionally; in February 1992, China provided an adherence commitment in writing to Washington. In June 1992, Washington lifted missile-related sanctions against China. Despite publicly stating its adherence to the MTCR, China proceeded with the sale of M-11 missiles (and possibly missile components and manufacturing equipment) to Pakistan, and has also transferred M-9 missiles and components to Syria.18 The tolerance in the West towards China's blatant violation of its commitments under the arms control regime is amazing, not only in the governments but in the Western literature in general. For instance, Mistry says: "China had negotiated these agreements with Pakistan and Syria before it agreed to adhere to MTCR guidelines, and thus was reluctant to lose foreign exchange and credibility by canceling the contracts. As such, these Chinese missile transfers may be regarded as one-time exceptions to China's pledge to halt its ballistic missile exports".19 That this was an incorrect assessment will become clear in the subsequent discussion.

China is under constant pressure to cancel its missile deals with Iran and Pakistan. The United States vetoed a $410 million Hughes satellite to a Chinese-led consortium, Asia Pacific Mobile Telecommunication Satellite Limited, on "national security grounds".

Unlike China and Russia, the relationship with Japan a la the MTCR is defined in terms of cooperation and friendship, Theatre Missile Defence (TMD) being the best example. In October 1990, the United States Department of Defence established a technology office in Tokyo and the US announced paid support for the US-Japan Systems and Technology Forum.20 In October 1991, the United States and Japan selected ducted rocket technology as the first joint R&D project.21

Guidelines and Annex

The MTCR members have released Guidelines explaining the regime's general principles and an annex declaring certain technologies to be controlled. The original Guidelines stipulated that MTCR members would refrain from exporting annex items on a voluntary and independent basis. The Guidelines also outlined the basic criteria to assess missile related export applications, such as nuclear proliferation concerns, the nature of the recipient state's missile and space programmes, the development of a nuclear weapon delivery system, end-use assessment of the item, and any relevant multilateral agreements. The activities that were permitted included provisions for educational exchanges, research programmes and servicing agreements. According to the Guidelines, the MTCR was not intended to impinge upon peaceful uses of advanced missile technology, national space programmes, or international space cooperation efforts "as long as such programmes could not contribute to nuclear weapon delivery systems".22

The Guidelines updated in January 1993, extended the regime to cover not only delivery systems for nuclear weapons but also for other WMD. The new Guidelines added that there is a "strong presumption" to deny an export if an MTCR member judges that a missile, whether or not listed in the annex, is "intended" for use in WMD delivery systems. Theoretically, these changes imply substantially tight control measures, since chemical and biological warheads can be placed on small rockets that fall well below the previous 500 kg and 300 km parameters. According to Howard Diamond, the change in scope from "limiting the risk of nuclear proliferation" to "limiting the risk of proliferation of mass destruction...broadened the MTCR to include delivery systems regardless of their range and payload capabilities if they are 'intended' for the delivery of weapons of mass destruction. Any missiles that exceeded the regime's 500kg/300km specifications, however, are still covered by the regime, regardless of intent".23 Intent is determined on the basis of available and reliable intelligence information shared among MTCR members.

The Guidelines, issued when the MTCR was announced, established a two-tier control list. The first, Category I, consist of complete missile systems and sub-systems as well as specially designed production equipment and technology for these systems. As for Category I exports, the Guidelines state, "There will be strong presumption to deny such transfers..."24 They also require that "until further notice, the transfer of Category I production facilities will not be authorised".25

According to Paragraph 3 of the Guidelines, the government judgment on the likely use of a missile item will be made "on the basis of all available, persuasive information, evaluated according to factors including...A. concerns about proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; B. The capabilities and objectives of the missile and space programme of the recipient state; C. The significance of the transfer in terms of the potential development of the nuclear delivery systems other than the manned aircraft; D. The assessment of the end-use of the transfer, including the relevant assurances of the recipient state referred to in subparagraphs 5A and 5B below; E. The applicability of relevant multilateral agreements".26

Under Paragraph 5, "where the transfer could contribute to a nuclear weapon delivery system, the Government will authorise transfers of items in the Annex only on receipt of appropriate assurances from the government of the recipient state that: A. the item will be used only for the purpose that is stated and that such use will not be modified nor the items modified or replicated without the prior consent (of the MTCR member state that transferred the items); B. Neither the items nor the replicas nor derivatives thereof will be retransferred without the consent of the (MTCR member state)."

Category II items consist of less sensitive components and technologies most of which have dual-use applications.

The Organisational Structure

As for the meetings, the members conduct three types of these: plenary, technical, and special. MTCR members meet at least once every year for a plenary session to exchange intelligence information regarding missile proliferation developments, to discuss proliferation policy issues, and to explore ways of improving the regime's performance. At technical meetings, representatives examine the regime's specific control over parameters to refine and expand the annex. Special meetings have been called for recruitment purposes, for instance, the meeting for non-MTCR Western European states and the then newly independent nations of Eastern Europe.

Member states volunteer to host MTCR meetings. The hosting nation serves as the chairman and determines the meeting agenda. France acts as the regular Secretariat, fulfilling the regime's normal administrative functions, serving as the point of contact. Decisions taken by the members such as approval of membership applications and annex changes require a consensus vote. Due to intelligence sharing among members, records of meetings remain confidential. By the end of 1998, twelve plenary meetings were held since 1987. The 1995 MTCR plenary made minor amendments to the Equipment and Technology Annex. The 1996 plenary focussed on regional aspects of missile proliferation. The 1997 plenary stressed the need for continued dialogue with non-members to achieve the regime's goals. The 1998 plenary discussed missile related developments in South Asia, North-East Asia and the Middle East and issued in principle an invitation to China to join the MTCR.27


Full member states are those countries that joined at the time of inception and later submitted applications that were approved for membership, or were directly recruited by the regime to participate in its closed circuit. The recruitment process often involves seminars, dialogues in the form of bilateral consultations, and fact-finding missions by MTCR delegations. Recruiting attempts have included, for example, US efforts to obtain some form of participation in the regime by the Soviet Union. Similarly, Japan has approached China, North Korea, Argentina, Brazil, as well as the former Soviet Union, encouraging them to adopt the MTCR Guidelines. Soon after the Gulf War, between 1990-93, 13 countries joined the MTCR.

Decisions regarding a state's application to join the MTCR are made on a confidential, case-by-case basis. MTCR members generally judge applicants on the basis of a state's export controls, its contribution to the regime, and its proliferation record. Backing and assistance from an influential member can also be helpful in gaining membership. All members must approve of an applicant before it is admitted to the regime.

The most interesting feature of the so-called informal regime is the status of adherents. Adherence is purely one-sided in the sense that while a state may adopt export controls based on MTCR Guidelines and proclaim itself to be an adherent, this does not necessarily imply that members will automatically recognise the "adhering" nation as an adherent; each member state has its own policy of determining whether a nation is an official adherent. The United States, for instance, in the past recognised adherent status only after a bilateral accord has been reached. Its efforts with Russia and Israel are cases in point.28 States have announced adherence voluntarily or have been pressured into announcing that they will observe the Guidelines voluntarily, like China Israel and South Africa. In some cases, the nations, that had initially formulated their export control laws based on the MTCR or have adhered to the MTCR for other reasons, eventually became formal members, like Sweden Argentina and Hungary. Then there are countries like Ireland and New Zealand that have joined the regime to avoid being used as a point of trans-shipment.

Ukraine's membership, in this context, deserves special mention since it signals a major change in US policy. Ukraine's insistence on maintaining the right to produce offensive missiles had been a sticking point in negotiations with Washington about bringing Kyiv into the MTCR. As part of the March 1998 agreement, Ukraine will keep its hundreds of Scud missiles--the type of rocket the MTCR was specifically designed to counter--through the end of their service lives, and will not forswear future production of short-range missiles should Kyiv find it necessary. In return, Ukraine promised to end its nuclear commerce with Tehran. When asked about Ukraine's Scuds, a State Department official said, "We've discussed their plans, and we are content their plans are compatible with MTCR membership". Ukraine's ending of the deal with Iran was described as an act of "great statesmanship", and is expected to delay the completion of Iran's 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactor project by Russia at Bushehr.29 It must, however, be remembered that membership of the MTCR does not automatically ease access to controlled dual-use technologies. While full membership may promote some form of technological cooperation, such as within the European Space Agency (ESA), it will not automatically reduce or remove certain export controls, as can be seen with intra-CoCom transfer arrangements. Under current US export law, end-use guarantees of MTCR items are required for all nations, except Canada. Other nations do not necessarily follow this policy. Some regard a nation's joining the regime as a move to control missile proliferation and accordingly deal with the issue of sharing transfer of dual-use technologies.

The MTCR membership at the end of 1998 stood at 32.

Impact Assessment

Intended Objective: To Curb National Programmes

In terms of impact assessment in this category, Mistry makes an interesting classification of the target states—"MTCR successes and MTCR limitations".30 In the former are included six states--Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, Taiwan, South Africa and Egypt--which have curbed their ballistic missile development aspirations. Further, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa have gone on to become MTCR members. However, MTCR restriction in these cases is one of the factors that made these countries give up their missile options. To quote him: "A number of domestic and external political factors, as well as MTCR restrictions and US pressure were behind the cancellation of the above mentioned missile programmes".31 Among the latter are included Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Iran. Mistry says", The MTCR's founders themselves recognised that technology controls would not affect Israel's and India's missile programmes; no other components of the missile non-proliferation regime (such as diplomacy or security guarantees) have halted missile development in any one of the five above-mentioned states.32


Israel is a poor subject so far as assessment is concerned. It was never a target state. Besides, as Shuey says, "The MTCR is largely irrelevant to Israel's missile programme because of its maturity".33 Israel has produced missiles and probably armed them with nuclear warheads for two-and a half decades. Israel claims its military programmes are strictly defensive. In the mid-1960s, with the help of the French firm, Marcel Dassault, Israel developed the capability to produce the Jericho (500-km) indigenously. In 1975, the United States refused to sell Pershing-1As to Israel, and instead sold them Lance (circular error of probability (CEP) 250m) battlefield missiles. Israel then developed a 2,800-km range Jericho follow-on, stages of which were used in 1988 to put a satellite into low earth orbit.

Since the MTCR was announced, Israel test-fired its Jericho II medium range missile and placed a satellite into orbit. On October 3, 1991, Israel announced its intention to abide by MTCR restrictions by the end of 1992. In response, the United States agreed to waive sanctions against Israel for cooperating with South Africa on ballistic missile development. By US law, a country that violates MTCR restrictions, even if it has not agreed to abide by them, is barred from doing business with the US government. Israel, however, is involved in several US government projects such as the Arrow anti-tactical ballistic missile.34 According to officials of the Government Rafael Armament Development Authority, Israel expected that adoption of MTCR Guidelines will not hinder warhead technology.35


Argentina's ballistic missile programme grew out of its Condor space programme of the late 1970s which produced three missiles: Condor-1 and 2, and the Alacran. Like the Condor-1 space research rocket, Alacran is a single-stage solid-fuelled rocket. Its first test launch was reported in 1989 and it is thought to have entered service in 1990. The Condor-2 programme was started in 1982, funded by Egypt from 1984 to 1989, and by Iraq from 1985 to 1989. It was a two-stage solid-fuelled missile intended to carry 45-kg load up to at least 900km. The system was designated Vector in Egypt (now terminated) and Badr--2000 in Iraq. Egypt and Iraq stopped funding the project in 1989.36 Argentina abandoned all efforts in this direction some time in the early 1990s after succumbing to American pressure.


Brazil began its programme in the 1960s with the launching of the Sonda family of experimental rockets. In 1980, it started working on a programme that would lead to development of the 50-ton satellite launch vehicle (100km/500kg); the first successful launch was in November 1984. The medium-range ballistic missile was to be based on Sonda-IV. This solid-fuelled two-stage missile underwent a fifth successful test in 1989, readying the rocket for use in VLS (FBIS LAT, May 18, 1989). Two civilian firms, Orbita and Avibras, were developing a series of missiles for export based on its work. Orbita was developing the MB/EE-150 mobile tactical missile (150km/500kg); also in the series were the MB/EE350, MB/EE(600km) and MB/EE-1000 (1,000km) surface-to-surface missiles.

While Western sources claim that the advent of democratic regimes in the two countries in mid-1980 played an important part in their eventual decision to scrap their missile programmes, the fact is that the degenerating state of the economy in the two countries made them give up their nuclear as well as missile programmes. Robert Shuey himself admits: "Difficulty in obtaining the necessary technology (due to MTCR restrictions) considerably hindered the national programmes of Argentina and Brazil and raised the cost of production."37 Actually, in the deteriorating economic circumstances, US diplomatic pressure on Argentina and Brazil to reduce their military budgets and scrap their missile programmes was linked to the availability of economic aid, in the form of investment and technology. For example, it resulted in the cancellation of the IBM computer 3090 in 1991, which it had agreed to supply a year earlier.

Argentina announced on April 21, 1990, that its Condor-2 project had been "suspended and frozen".38 It finally declared the termination of the project in May 1991. The exact nature of termination has, however, been questioned (discussed later). It adopted export controls consistent with the MTCR Guidelines in April 1992 and turned over to Spain the components from the Condor-2 programme for destruction; Argentina's application for membership was approved by member states in March 1993. While Brazil continues to develop artillery rockets (Avibras produces and exports the SS series of rockets, having ranges varying from 30-80 km), Brazil scrapped its ballistic missile programmes and announced its desire to adhere to MTCR Guidelines in December 1994. Brazil formally acceded to the MTCR in October 1995, retaining its space programme.39

Interestingly, in June 1989, Avibras announced a joint venture with the Chinese Ministry of Aeronautics and Aeronautics Industry to sell space programmes and launching to Third World countries, posing competition to the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) and Ariane programmes. By 1994, however, Brazil concluded an agreement with NASA and the Ariane consortium to launch a range of ionospheric research and sounding rockets. Also, while South Africa had to give up its programme, Argentina had to abandon its Condor-2 before joining the MTCR, and Brazil's VLS was cancelled despite the fact that it could serve as a parallel for the ICBM.40 However, the Brazilian space agency was put under civilian control in 1994, ending a 20-year control by the military.41

South Africa

South Africa's missile development activities involved the approximately 500-km range "Arniston" missile; this programme was undertaken in the mid to late 1980s largely out of national security considerations. It test-fired a missile booster from the southern Cape Coast as late as in October 1990.42 A second test-firing of South Africa's intermediate-range missile was expected in the spring of 1991 but was never reported to have occurred. South Africa, thus, was able to conduct a sophisticated missile development programme despite the UN arms embargo and the MTCR. The prospect of the blacks coming to power, and, in fact, the fear of this possibility even before they actually came to power, made South Africa give up its nuclear and, therefore, missile options. South Africa eventually terminated all its rocket-related research (which was continuing through a space launch vehicle programme). The reason stated, of course, was improvements in regional security that had led, first, to its signing of the NPT in 1991, and under the US pressure, subsequently, giving up its missile activity in June 1993. This paved the way for South Africa's eventual accession to the MTCR in October 1995.43 In February 1999, South Africa's first satellite, Sunsat was launched into space on board a US Air Force Boeing Delta II rocket.44


In October 1984, Egypt had signed an agreement with Argentina in Buenos Aires to begin the development of the $3.2 billion Condor project. Iraq was secretly represented and had decided to fund the bulk of the project called Badr-2000. In March 1990, Iraq announced that it had successfully tested a three-stage rocket--el-Badr-2--believed to be an offshoot of the Condor programme, and capable of putting a satellite into orbit.

Egypt's indigenous efforts for a crash missile, begun in the 1960s with German assistance at "Factory-333" in Heliopolis, came to a halt when the German government withdrew cooperation in 1966. Three rockets were under development--the 375-km al-Zafar, 600km al-Kahar, and 1,000-km al-Raid.45 Egypt is believed to have extended the range of Scuds with help from North Korea. Egypt currently produces the 80-km range Sakr-80 artillery rockets with help from the French Societe Nationale des Poudres et Explosifs (SNEP), but has curbed its other ballistic missile development efforts on account of financial constraints made worse by technology embargoes and Washington's disapproval.46 In July 1990, there were reports that China had agreed to help modernise Egypt's Scud-B missiles.47 Reports of a test of a completely Egyptian developed missile--Amun-2--came in March 1990.48 In June 1990, Egypt signed a protocol with China to upgrade its Sakr missile factory.49 Although not a member of the MTCR, as the recipient of $2 billion US aid annually, Egypt has preferred to use diplomatic pressure rather than arming Israel's enemies.


Taiwan's missile-related activities have been restricted to the production of Tien Kung anti-tactical ballistic missile (also known as SkyBow) which has two variants--I and II. The Tien Kung-1 is the "same performance class" as the MIM-104 Patriot.50 Taiwan terminated its plans to produce the 100-km range "Green Bee missiles (resembling its Lance missile) and 1,000-km range "Sky Horse" missiles largely because of US diplomacy and MTCR restrictions. In addition, upon observing the effects of the MTCR in raising the economic and political costs of rocket development programmes in other nations, Taiwan's policy makers decided to not pursue a satellite launch vehicle programme; instead, Taiwan opted to restrict its space programme to building of satellites.51

According to March 1999 reports, Taiwan is planning to increase its missile programme budget by $600 million for the next fiscal year. The money is likely to be used for the anti-ship Hsiung Feng II to produce a version with cruise missile capabilities which would allow Taiwan to launch pre-emptive strikes against China's land-based missile sites. Taiwanese military sources suggest that the Tien Ma surface-to-surface missile programme will be revived, with similar pre-emptive strike capabilities. Taiwan has already purchased the Modified Air Defence System (MADS) Patriot-t--which is a modified US Patriot high-to-medium surface-to-air-missile. According to a US Department of Defence report, Taiwan cannot exclusively rely on an active defence system to deter China.52

South Korea

Yet another hitherto believed success is South Korea. The country initiated a medium-range missile system, the Hyun-mu project, in 1989 based on the US Nike missile technology. However, the project was stopped in 1990 by a US-South Korea agreement that restricted South Korea's missile capabilities to 180 km. The North Korean missile launch in August 1998 revitalised the South Korean effort in this direction and led to a decision to overrun the agreement with the US. According to South Korean officials, the country would rather develop and deploy a medium range missile force capable of striking critical targets in North Korea than rely on the US-proposed TMD systems that are unproven, costly and inadequate for deterring a North Korean attack. According to officials at the South Korean Ministry of National Defence, the United States has, through recent diplomatic exchanges, accepted the development of South Korean missiles capable of delivering a 500-kg payload at 300 km, the codified standard of the MTCR. While US officials have denied such an agreement, according to South Korean officials, the US plans to link the approval of such a plan to transparency at the developmental stage, a proposition unacceptable to the South Koreans.53


In 1976, Iraq received its first Scuds from the Soviet Union. It is believed these missiles were acquired to augment existing conventional systems. When the Iran-Iraq War started in 1980, however, Iraq's missile regiments were still insufficiently trained. In the early stages of the war, Iraq used FROG-7 rockets first against military targets and later against Iranian border towns. Because Scuds were unable to reach Tehran, Baghdad sought SS-12 missiles (900-km range) from Moscow. The request was refused. Iraq then established a procurement network with Egypt and Argentina to produce the Condor. Iraq supplied much of the funding for the project, but due to the programme's lack of success, Iraq began to direct more attention to extending the range of the Scud-Bs. The al-Hussein, a modified Scud-B, was available for use by 1988. Iraq's missile production facilities kept growing through the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Soviet Union acknowledged it had sold 819 Scud missiles to Iraq, many of which it converted to the al-Husayn missile with a range of up to 600 km. Iraq test-fired two al-Abbas in December 1990. According to US intelligent sources, the al-Abbas has a range of 900 km, 250 km more than the earlier version, al-Hussein.54 In December, Saddam Hussein claimed Iraq had developed a new missile called al-Hijara, with a range of "hundreds of kilometers".55 Iraq also ganged several rocket motors together to create a powerful first stage of an experimental space launch vehicle but has been unable to build a multi-stage missile.56 In any case, given the state of developments in the post-Gulf War era, the UN required Iraq to destroy all missiles with ranges greater than 150 km. Iraq has successfully developed the al-Samound liquid propelled missile, flight tested in 1997 and is developing the 100-km range solid-propelled Ababil-100. It is difficult to comment on the impact of the MTCR because of the availability of only Western versions of the reports, but a post-mortem of the capabilities reveals that the regime was not able to prevent Iraq acquiring long-range missiles, even if it was through the modification of Scuds. Western reports also say that Iraq has been able to conceal some of the prohibited systems.57

North Korea

The most "dangerous case" after Iraq is considered to be North Korea.58 Although much secrecy shrouds North Korea's missile programme, it is believed that since the early 1980s, it has pursued an aggressive programme to develop increasingly more capable missiles for both indigenous use and export. It has copied the Scud missile, extended its range (No dong), probably deployed missiles where they could strike South Korea, and exported them to countries in the Middle East and Pakistan. A 1991 report said North Korea can produce more than 50 Scuds-Bs per year from its production facility, built in 1987, near Pyongyang. The missiles have a range of 300 km. However, since 1988, efforts have been made to double the range. Deployment of the improved missile is expected in 1992. Additionally, North Korea has 12 launchers stationed near the truce line.59 The MTCR and other regimes have been powerless to stop these developments. The sources of North Korea's assistance (China, Soviet Union, Egypt, etc) were beyond the reach of the MTCR.60

North Korea conducted a three-stage missile test in August 1998 and is currently involved in developing the two-stage Taep'o-dong 2 which is capable of delivering a large payload even to the "continental United States".61


Currently, Iranian missile infrastructure includes a Chinese-built missile plant near Semnan, larger North Korean-built plants at Isfahan and Sirjan which can produce liquid fuels, and some structural components, and missile test facilities at Shahroud and Shahid Hemat Industrial Group research facilities. Historically, Iranian missile production has largely consisted of the assembly of kits of imported parts. However, Iran has been able to produce short-range missiles and rockets. It has produced the unguided short-range Mushak-120 (also called Iran-130 or Nazeat-10), its longer version Mushak-160, and a 200-km (Zelzal?) one, is reported to be in development, presumably with Chinese assistance. According to the 1995 Jane's Intelligence Review Special Report no. 6, Iran's present missile inventory includes 15 transporter-erector-launchers and 250-300 Scud-Bs, all of which were bought from North Korea. An extended version of these (Shahab-2) was bought from North Korea. Iran successfully tested Shahab-3, a derivative of Nodong-I with a range of 1,290-km in June 1998. The Iranian defence minister announced in February 1999 that Iran was in the process of constructing the non-military Shahab-4 missile for the purpose of launching a satellite into space. The US, however, believes that it is derived from the Russian 2000-km range SS-4 missile and is for military use.62


On April 25, 1998, Pakistan announced that it had tested two missiles, "one having a range of 80 km and the other 300 km". These missiles, the Hatf-I and Hatf-II, are claimed to have a capacity to lift a 500-kg load. The former is believed to have been deployed in December 1989, while the latter was displayed during the Pakistan Day parade the same year. Some, however, believe, that the Hatf is not a missile but a rocket.63 Pakistan set up a Missile Development Board in 1992 with active assistance from SUPARCO. A successful test of the third missile, Hatf- III, which is a two-stage solid propellant, having a range of 600 km and payload capacity of 500 kg, was conducted by SUPARCO, the civilian space research organisation in July 1997.64 In April 1998, Pakistan test-fired a medium range ballistic missile, the Ghauri. The missile has a range of 1,500 km and a payload capacity of 700 kg. The fact that the missile was test flown over populated areas has given rise to the assertion that the missile was "proven" already. It is believed to be derived from the Dong Feng-35 of China or North Korea's Nodong-2. Shaheen, a 700-km-range missile, was successfully test-fired in 1999. There are reports of development of a still longer range Ghaznavi (2,000 km) missile by Pakistan. The MTCR has been totally ineffective in curbing Pakistan's missile programme, indigenous content notwithstanding. In fact, as shall be seen subsequently, the same is the case where missile acquisition (mainly from China) is concerned--the MTCR has been totally ineffective.


The plan to make India independent in missile design and production—the Integrated Missile Development Programme--was launched in 1983. The plan involved development of four missile systems: Trishul, a short-range surface-to air missile (SAM) Akash, a medium range SAM Nag, a "fire and forget "anti-tank missile; and Prithvi a battlefield support surface-to-surface missile. The development of Agni, an intermediate-range ballistic missile, has been undertaken concurrently with the other systems. Prithvi has two versions--the SS-150 capable of carrying a warhead of 1,000 kg to 500 km, and the SS-250, carrying 500 kg to 250 km. It has a CEP of .01 m. India has begun serial production of this missile. Agni is a two-stage intermediate-range missile with a maximum range of 2,500 km. It is a combination of Prithvi and India's satellite launch vehicle-3. The missile was initially a technology demonstrator, meant to show the re-entry technology. A longer-range version of the missile, Agni-II, with a range of 2,500 km, was successfully tested on April 11, 1999. India is reportedly developing Sagarika, a nuclear capable, submarine launched missile.65

The indigenous character of the missile programme makes the MTCR practically redundant in the Indian context. The attempts by the US to put pressure on the Indian space programme by imposing sanctions on India's Space Research Organisation and the Russian Glavkosmos for the sale of the cryogenic engine shows the Western desperation in this regard. Although the Russians cancelled the sale of technology and consequently the sanctions on them were lifted, the sanctions against India remained in place until their expiry in May 1994. India said the sanctions had caused minor inconvenience to the space programme, which is a civilian enterprise in India.66 In June 1997, the United States imposed export curbs on some Indian firms for their role in India's missile programme.67

Declared Objectives: Preventing Transfers

According to a Congressional Research Service report, the MTCR has achieved a little success in constraining certain aspects of missile proliferation. Within the MTCR, the application of voluntary export controls has been inconsistent and uneven. Companies or individuals in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Soviet Union, the United States, and other member countries have reportedly transferred entire systems, components, materials or technological information to other countries engaged in missile development. MTCR restrictions apply primarily to commodities and facilities that are designed to produce components of missiles that can carry a 500-kg warhead to 300 km, even though smaller missiles with shorter ranges may also pose significant dangers, the 1993 revisions stated above notwithstanding. The MTCR is not comprehensive or leakproof. It does not restrict all relevant missile technology and has no verification and enforcement measures.

The United States itself has undermined the regime for its gains. Between 1985 and August 2, 1990, the US Department of Commerce approved licences for $1.5 billion of sensitive equipment, mostly of dual-use nature, to Iraq. On March 11, 1991, the Commerce Department released a list of approved licences. In many instances, the Commerce Department failed to refer cases involving the transfer of missile technology to the State Department, which chairs the Missile Technology Export Committee or to other appropriate departments in violation of its own procedures.68

A classic example is its reported expansion of cooperation with Israel on space to include military applications. The US officials noted Israel's research towards developing a new generation of launch vehicles, and its development of sensors and early warning technology, while Israeli officials identified the US Air Force's space-based infrared development programme and the Ballistic Missile Defence Organisations space-based laser programme as candidates for joint development.69 It is important to note that the regime exempts space programmes so long as such programmes do not contribute to delivery systems for WMD.70

Again, an investigation was sought into a deal whereby illegal shipment of ballistic missile technology was made by the Pennsylvania based International Signal and Control to South Africa between 1984-89.71

The same is true about other Western countries which are founder members of the regime. In November 1998, Matra BAe Dynamics, a British-French arms manufacturer, agreed to sell the air-launched long-range Black Shaheen to the United Arab Emirates. The United States is attempting to block the sale, insisting that it is in violation of the MTCR of which Britain and France are members. The British government has said that the Black Shaheen will have a payload of less than 500 kg, and, therefore, its sale is allowed.72

The less said the better about the role of European countries in the nuclear and missile programmes of Iraq. According to reports in July 1990, the German Gildemeister Projecta Gmbh was under investigation for its involvement in Iraq's Saad project, a missile and weapons research centre. The H and H Metalform Company sold missile bodies to Iraq during the final years of the Iran-Iraq War. Two other German firms--Electro-Gmbh and Teldix GmbH--were also under investigation for supplying missile technology to Iraq.73 An Austrian firm, LIM Kunstoff Technologies, was accused of supplying Iraq with facilities used in the production of solid rocket fuel.74 China was reported to have secretly supplied Iraq with lithium hydride in violation of UN sanctions imposed on Iraq in September 1990.75

According to German media reports, Iraq and Libya concluded an agreement in January 1995 on joint development of ballistic missiles after successful missile testing in the south-west deserts of Libya to increase the range of the 3,000-km Scud missiles.76

The non-members have also done their bit to undermine the regime. Special mention in this respect can be made of China and North Korea. In 1988, the People's Republic of China (PRC) sold Saudi Arabia CSS-2 missiles that reportedly use guidance systems which the PRC jointly developed with Israel. The PRC has also developed M-9 and M-11 missiles, which Syria and Libya have attempted to acquire. The range of the CSS-2 is approximately 2,000 miles while the M-9s and M-11s can travel 365 miles.77 The M-9 is a single stage solid fuel rocket with a range of approximately 600 km and, a CEP of approximately 650 m. It can be fitted with either conventional or nuclear warheads, stored in partially hardened launch sites and can be delivered by trucks a long distance from storage sites. According to a Chinese scholar, Hua Di, the M-9 was developed "totally for export".78

Pakistan owes a large share of its missile programme to external assistance, mainly China. The contract to deliver an intermediate number of M-11 missiles was reportedly signed with the Chinese concern CPMIEC in 1988. According to US officials, Pakistan agreed to give China $15 million as partial payment on its contract.79 In March 1991, China is reported to have supplied M-11 missiles to Pakistan. Guidance units and chemicals for fuel were supplied in 1992.80 Another dispatch of about two dozen M-11 missiles, capable of carrying nuclear warheads, was unloaded at Pakistan's port of Karachi in 1992.81 Pakistan was secretly building a factory near Rawalpindi to produce missiles with the potential to carry nuclear warheads.82 Interestingly, while Chinese officials admit having supplied the missiles, they deny that it is a violation of the MTCR.83

Iran became North Korea's first client, purchasing 40 Scud-Bs in early 1988 that were then fired against Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War. In early 1990, Iran bought 20 more Scud-Bs from North Korea. Then, in December 1990, Iran sent officials to North Korea for on-site training in the production and launching of ballistic missiles while North Korea sent technical advisors to Iran to rework a missile maintenance facility into a missile production factory. Since January 1991, Iran was also been receiving Scud-C missile parts from North Korea.84 During the Gulf War, Iraq's Deputy Foreign Minister Saadoun Hamadi attempted to expedite a deal made with North Korea in December 1990 for the delivery of Scud-Bs and Scud-Cs. North Korea refused delivery when Iraq could not offer cash or oil payments.

Libya, between 1986 and 1991, purchased Scud-Bs and Scud-Cs from North Korea and is about to underwrite North Korea's 600-mile range ballistic missile, referred to as the Scud-D. Both nations agreed to establish a production facility for this missile in Libya. North Korea has also assisted Egypt in establishing a Scud-C production facility near Cairo since 1990. The facility belongs to the consortium Arab-British Dynamics Co, owned by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Britain.

The MTCR, thus, has been unable to prevent the transfers of missiles or their components. While it may have acted as an additional factor in preventing proliferation of national missile programmes, it cannot be generalised. The regime may be informal but it is definitely discriminatory, much more than the formal treaties. It discriminates between members and adherents, and in the former, again between earlier members and the followers. The criteria are extremely arbitrary. The classic example is that of the cryogenic engine sale from Russia to India which was seen as a violation of the MTCR by America and resulted in imposition of sanctions on Russia and India when neither was a member of the regime. Even when the sanctions were lifted, they were lifted from Russia and not India when the former was the exporter and the latter the importer. The consensus principle for acceptance of membership gives a virtual veto power to countries like the United States, that since 1993 have put the condition of countries renouncing national missile programmes as being necessary for recognition as an adherent. Even that is arbitrary as is exemplified in the case of Ukraine. Thus, the US can decide which countries can become adherents, say Israel--and only they are eligible to make missiles, launch satellites and even import relevant technologies. The MTCR does not take into account the particular industrial capabilities of recipient countries. In the cryogenic case, India was not gaining any new, militarily significant capability. India has worked with France on liquid-fuelled Viking rockets. Given the short distances between the adversaries in sensitive areas of South Asia, East Asia and the Middle East, the 300 kg-500 km criterion hardly holds well. This is more so because of the common knowledge that the range can always be increased by decreasing the payload. It is, therefore, not without significance that the Bush Administration sought agreement among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to forego sales of missiles below the MTCR ranges to the Middle East. Then there are countries like China, which have their own definition of intermediate-range missiles. Even if they ever accede to the MTCR, their interpretation would be subjective. The dual-use nature of most missile component and the permissibility to maintain national space programmes makes it easy for a country to acquire missile capability through deception. Last, but not the least, the MTCR fails to address the already existing ballistic missiles. In fact, this is the argument for deployment of space-based weapons in a global anti-missile system. This, in turn, has challenged the MTCR, since China now wants to tackle theatre missile defences which pose a challenge to its security given the involvement of Japan and proposed involvement of Taiwan in it. In short, just as delivery systems are natural extensions of the programmes of nuclear weapons, retaining the monopoly over the delivery systems has come up as a natural extension of the denial regimes of controlling nuclear technology.



1. Nuclear Developments, October 25, 1990, pp. 4-11, citing Guoji Wenti Yanjiu, no. 3, July 13, 1990, pp. 29-36.

2. James Scheffran and Aaron Karp, "National Implementation of the MTCR: The US and German Experiences", in Hans Gaunter Brauch, Henry van der Graaf, John Grin and Wim Smit, eds., Control the Development and Spread of Military Technology, (VU University Press, 1992), and pp. 238-40.

3. n. 1.

4. Scheffran and Karp, in Baruch et al., eds., n. 2, pp. 239-40.

5. Ibid., p. 240.

6. Janne Nolan "Alternative Approaches to Managing Missile Proliferation", in William Potter and Harlan Jencks, The International Missile Bazaar: The New Suppliers Network (Boulder, Colo: Westview, 1994), p. 283.

7. Deborah A. Ozga, "A Chronology of the Missile Technology Control Regime", The Nonproliferation Review, Winter 1994, vol. 1, no. 2, p. 1.

8. Howard Diamond, "The Missile Technology Control Regime", Background Paper, The Arms Control Association, March 1998, p. 2. He, however, adds "and thereby gain access to space market".

9. Martin Navias, Going Ballistic: The Build-up of Missiles in the Middle East (Brassey's 1993), p. 201.

10. Dinshaw Mistry, "Ballistic Missile Proliferation and the MTCR: A Ten-Year Review," Contemporary Security Policy, vol. 13, no. 3, p. 63.

11. Bill Gertz, "Russia Conspiring With Iran on Missiles", Washington Times, February 23, 1998.

12. Reuters, March 9, 1998, online, http://biz.yahoo.com

13. Washington Post, February 28, 1998.

14. Jane's Intelligence Review, February 4, 1999.

15. For example, China denied Libyan requests for both long-range missiles as well as shorter-range M-9 missiles. Martin Navias, "Proliferation in Middle East and North Asian Connection", Arms Control, vol. 14, no. 3, December 1993, p. 304.

16. Hua Di, "China's Case: Ballistic Missile Proliferation", in Potter and Jencks, n. 6, pp. 168-9, 180.

17. Wendy Frieman, "New Members of the Club--Chinese Participation in Arms Control Regimes 1980-95," The Nonproliferation Review, vol. 3, no. 3, Spring/Summer, 1996, p. 26.

18. Navias, n. 9, p. 304.

19. Mistry, n. 10.

20. Jane's Defence Weekly, December 12, 1991.

21. Defense News, November 4, 1991, p. 18.

22. Ozga, n. 7.

23. Diamond, n. 3.

24. "Missile Technology Control Regime: Factsheet to Accompany Public Announcement "White House Press Office (WHPO), April 6, 1987.

25. Alexander A. Pikayev, Leonard Spector, Elina V. Kirichenko and Ryan Gibson, "Russia, the US and The Missile Technology Control Regime", Adelphi Paper 317, (IISS, London: March 1998), p. 10.

26. Zachary S. Davis, "Nonproliferation Regimes: Policies to Control the Spread of Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Weapons and Missiles", CRS Report for Congress, February 18, 1993, p. 42-43.

27. Arms Control Reporter, 1999, P706.A.1.

28. Ozga, n. 7.

29. Howard Diamond, "US, Ukraine Sign Nuclear Accord, Agree on MTCR Accession", Arms Control Today, March 1998, p. 17.

30. Mistry, n. 10, p. 64.

31. Ibid.

32. Ibid., p. 66.

33. Robert Shuey "Assessment of the Missile Technology Control Regime", in Brauch et al., eds., n. 2, p.184.

34. Arms Control Today, November 1991, p. 20.

35. Defense News, October 14, 1991, p. 4.

36. Milav News, March 1991, p1; Defense and Foreign Affairs Weekly, March 3, 1991, p. 3.

37. Shuey, n. 33, p. 182-3, and Mistry, n. 10, p. 237.

38. Nuclear Developments, May 7, 1990, pp. 29-30 citing original source DYN (Buenos Aires), April 21, 1990).

39. Wyn Q. Bowen, "Brazil's Accession to the MTCR", The Nonproliferation Review, vol. 3, no. 3, Spring-Summer 1996, p. 88.

40. Arms Control Today, November 1995, p. 20.

41. Space News, April 24-30, 1995.

42. Jane's Defence Weekly, October 8, 1990, p. 1131.

43. Mistry, n. 10, p. 65.

44. Sunsat is designed for remote sensing and amateur and amateur radio communication capabilities http://lexis-nexis.com citing Lynne Rippenaar, Africa News, February 24, 1999.

45. Aaron Karp, Ballistic Missile Proliferation, (OUP, 1996).

46. Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr, and "Egypt's Missile Development", in Potter and Jenks, n. 6, pp. 23-40.

47. Arms Control Reporter, July 1990, p. 706, B.36.

48. Nuclear Developments, April 25, 1990, p. 15, original source Al Akhbar, March 25, 1990.

49. Adel Darwish, "China to Update Egypt's Missiles", Independent, June 14, 1990.

50. World Weapons Review, July 11, 1990.

51. Henry Sokoloski, "Fighting Proliferation With Intelligence", Orbis, vol. 38, no. 2, Spring 1994, p. 245.

52. Jane's Defence Weekly, March 10, 1999.

53. Defense News, March 8, 1999, pp. 1, 34.

54. Jane's Defence Weekly, December 15, 1990, p. 212.

55. Jane's Defence Weekly, October 20, 1990.

56. Shuey in Brauch et al., eds., n. 2, p. 184.

57. The Nonproliferation Review, Fall 1996, p. 163.

58. Shuey in Brauch et al., eds., n. 2, p. 185.

59. Asia-Pacific Defense Reporter, April 1991, p. 24.

60. Bermudez, Josephs and W. Seth Carus, "The North Korean 'Scud B Programme," Jane's Soviet Intelligence Review, April 1989, pp. 177-181; Emerson Steve, "The Post War Scud Boom", Wall Street Journal, July 10, 1991, p. 1.

61. Defense Week, Janaury 25, 1999, New York Times, February 3, 1999.

62. Dawn, February 17, 1999, IRNA, February 7, 1999.

63. Defense and Foreign Affairs Weekly, February 19-25, 1990, p. 3.

64. The Nation, July 4, 1997.

65. Arms Control Reporter, 1999, p. 706.5.

66. Arms Control Reporter, 1999, p. 706.A.5.

67. Arms Control Reporter, 1999, p. 706.A.50.

68 Wisconsin Project Report 1991.

69. <http://www.globes.co.il>

70. Diamond, n. 8, p. 1, emphasis added.

71. Financial Times, May 24, 1991, p. 6.

72. Lexis-Nexis, December 4, 1998.

73. Nuclear Developments, October 1990, p. 13, citing DPA, September 25, 1990.

74. Nuclear Developments, October 16, 1990, citing Vienna Kurier, October 3, October 1990, p. 13, citing DPA, September 25, 1990.

75. Defense and Foreign Affairs Weekly, October 19, 1990, p. 2.

76. FBIS-WEU-98-057, February 26, 1998 citing Stern, February 26, 1998.

77. Newsweek, April 8, 1991, pp. 22-27.

78. Defense News, April 8, 1991, p. 1.

79. "Pakistan-China Deal for Missiles Exposed", Washington Times, September 7, 1997, pA1, A18. Reuters, June 27, 1991, as cited in John Wilson Lewis and Hua Di," Chinese Ballistic Missile Programmes: Technologies, Strategies, Goals", International Security, vol. 17, no. 2, Fall 1992, p. 37.

80. New York Times, January 31, 1992.

81. Pakistan Times, December 10, 1992.

82. Washington Post, August 25, 1996; The News, August 25, 1996.

83. See the speech of Chinese ambassador to the US, Zhu Qizhen's at National Press Club on June 27, 1991, in Lewis and Hua Di , n. 79.

84. Wall Street Journal, July 10, 1991.