Tue, Mar 04, 2008 - Page 8 News List

LETTERS: French deal helps no one

An Associated Press article late last month, "Pakistan: France confirms talks with Pakistan on high-tech systems for fighter developed with China" by Jamey Keaten on Feb. 26, states that the French state arms export agency, the Delegation Generale pour l'Armement (DGA), is preparing to sell the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) both the MICA air-to-air missiles made by MBDA and the Thales RC400 radar set.

They will be integrated onto the JF-17 fighter aircraft that the PAC is producing jointly with the Chengdu Aerospace Design Institute in China. Both nations intend to use the JF-17 in their air forces (in China the aircraft is designated the FC-1), as well as sell them to third nations.

The problem for Taipei is that the MBDA missiles and Thales radar are the same systems used on board the Taiwanese air force Dassault Mirage 2000 fighters. Pakistan will almost certainly (despite any denials to the contrary) share this technology with Chengdu.

This means Taiwan's Mirages will now be compromised and useless in defending the nation against an attack from China.

France is probably the leading advocate of strengthening the unity and Constitution of the EU, yet this resolve disappears when it comes to the issue of the EU's arms embargo against China. Whether you believe the embargo is the right or the wrong policy is not the issue. The fact is it is the law of the EU.

The previous government under former president Jacques Chirac made numerous attempts to have this embargo lifted.

For all that might have been dislikeable about Chirac, he was at least honest about his intentions in this matter.

The present French government seems determined to circumvent the embargo through the back door of selling the technology to Pakistan first and then pretend that the JF-17 program can suddenly and magically be made leakproof even though Islamabad has shared all that it knows with its Chinese partners in the past.

Furthermore, the Chinese may think the DGA is their friend in this situation, but this is not the case.

The French agency will sell this technology to Pakistan under the pretense that it can be kept out of Chengdu's hands. When the technology is compromised, the DGA will cry a lot of crocodile tears and try to place the blame for its duplicity on Beijing.

"Well, you know the Chinese -- they just cannot be trusted. Oh, woe are we that we were lied to in such a manner," is what it will say in a series of self-righteous denunciations of China.

It is just this kind of dishonest, trying-to-have-it-both-ways manner of doing business that has earned DGA the reputation it has today.

It is also hard to see what France gains by this transaction. Causing Taiwan's 60 Mirage 2000s and its 1,000-plus MICA missiles to become useless against the Chinese air force means essentially no more business for Dassault in Taiwan -- and basically surrenders this market to US weapons manufacturers.

US firms and Washington have without a doubt used unfair tactics and have pressured governments like South Korea and Singapore to buy US over French products in some rather intense competitions.

However, if France loses Taiwan as a market for its defense products it cannot blame nefarious US tactics or bullying by the White House. It will have no one to blame other than its own arms export administration.

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