By Twing, Shawn L.
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs , Vol. X, No. 5
Congress Calls for Sanctions If Israeli Technology Transfer to China Is Proven
Two U.S. representatives announced in September that they would support congressional efforts to sanction U.S. aid to Israel if it is proven that Israel has retransferred sensitive U.S. technology to China. Floyd Spence (R-SC), chairman of the House National Security Committee, and Curt Weldon (R-Pa), chairman of the House national security military research and development subcommittee, both voiced their support for such measures after hearing a committee-sponsored discussion, led by Heritage Foundation senior policy analyst Richard Fisher, of China's military modernization program and its threat to U.S. and allied forces.
The comments by the two Republican congressmen follow years of almost completely unheeded allegations by government officials, defense industry executives and private-sector analysts that Israel has retransferred U.S. technology to China. The technology allegedly retransferred includes:
- Cruise missile technology. Israel allegedly has helped China with several cruise missile systems, including its YJ-12A medium-range anti-ship cruise missile, its YJ-91 air-launched anti-radiation cruise missile, and the YJ-62 long-range anti-ship cruise missile. These missile systems are based primarily on Israel's STAR-1 cruise missile which, according to American University professor and technology transfer specialist Duncan Clarke, "incorporates sensitive U.S. technology." Israel also has marketed its Delilah cruise missile/unmanned aerial vehicle to China. The Delilah is believed to be a re-engineered version of an American system sold to Israel in the 1970s by Northrop, a U.S. defense firm.
- Air-to-air missile technology. Israel has sold China its Python-3 short-range air-to-air missile which China has renamed the PL-8. According to Clarke, the Python-3 is a re-engineered version of the U.S.-made AIM-9L "Sidewinder" and also incorporates a significant amount of U.S. technology.
- ATBM technology. Following the Gulf war and the stationing of U.S. Patriot missile batteries in Israel, allegations were made that Israel had retransferred Patriot missile technology to China. A subsequent U.S. State Department investigation concluded that although the claim could not be refuted, there was no physical evidence to substantiate it. The Israelis used this narrow finding as a public relations tool to discount allegations of technology retransfer in general. It is now widely believed that Israel sold technical data about the Patriot system to China, but not physical components of the system.
- The Lavi fighter. China unveiled earlier this year its developmental F-10 fighter, which U.S. intelligence reports have suggested is modeled after Israel's discontinued Lavi aircraft. The physical characteristics of the F-10, which looks strikingly like the Lavi, have substantiated those reports. The Lavi was the first large-scale attempt at U.S.-Israeli "strategic cooperation," and it was supposed to provide Israel with an indigenously produced advanced fighter designed to meet Israel's operational needs. The Lavi was funded almost exclusively by the United States, which provided $1.5 billion before the program was abandoned by Israel, under intense U.S. pressure, in 1986. It incorporates U.S. technology from some 730 U.S. defense firms and has given China a dramatic leap forward for its indigenous military aircraft development program. Israel denies that any U.S. technology was retransferred to China via the Lavi fighter, a statement that most U.S. analysts find hard to believe, given the enormous amount of U.S. technology present in the Lavi.
Aside from Israel's clandestine military relationship with China, Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) currently is marketing its Phalcon airborne early warning (AEW) system to China in competition with the British defense firm GEC-Marconi. China's acquisition of an AEW system would provide a dramatic advance in China's operational abilities and would, according to Richard Fisher, "significantly erode the military technical edge held by the U. …