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Thursday, 13 July, 2000, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
China's weapons chase
Barak and Clinton
Arms sales to China have caused unusual friction
By defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus

Israel's decision to abandon the sale of its advanced airborne radar system to China was probably inevitable, given the pressure from the United States and Israel's vital ties with Washington.

Modern air power depends upon timely access to information to plan and orchestrate air operations.

China has studied Nato missions in both the Gulf and the Balkans, and realised that sophisticated radar aircraft must be a key element in the modernisation of its air force.

If it cannot buy the technology from Israel, then it may well seek to purchase a Russian equivalent - the Israeli technology was in any case going to be fitted in a Russian-supplied aircraft.

China's muted criticism of the cancellation of the deal is probably a reflection of Beijing's awareness of the realities of Israel's situation.

The Chinese response may also be tempered by a desire to continue its broader military relationship with the Jewish State.

The highly secretive links between China and Israel have been going on for many years.

Crying foul

China is eager to tap into Israel's highly sophisticated arms industry, and this is not the first time that American officials or companies have cried foul.

They argue that it is actually US-derived technology that is being transferred.

Sometimes it is a question of commercial rivalry; sometimes, as in this case, a genuine strategic concern for America's vital interests in Asia.

The whole matter is complicated by the extraordinarily close - almost unique - relationship between the Israeli and the US defence industries who are pursuing a variety of collaborative projects.

The US has, by and large, accepted that Israel's defence trade with China is inevitable.

But this time it has effectively drawn a red line to limit such ties, which the Israeli government cannot cross unless it is willing to accept some serious consequences.

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See also:

13 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
China anger over scrapped radar deal
12 Jul 00 | Middle East
Israel cancels China radar deal
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