Thu, Feb 03, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Embargo hasn't stopped EU weapons technology from flowing into China


Despite the 16-year-old EU embargo on arms sales to China, there has been ample "leakage" and EU countries have sold much sophisticated advanced military technology to China, a US expert on China's military forces said on Tuesday.

Richard Fisher, vice president of the International Strategic and Assessment Center, told a panel in Washington sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute that European firms have provided China with a number of advanced systems since the embargo was called in 1989 in response to the Tiananmen massacre.

In 1998, for instance, Britain's Surrey Satellite Technology entered into an agreement to help Tsinghua University develop micro satellite technology, a cutting edge technology that can be used to intercept and destroy US military satellites and to thwart US aid in any conflict with Taiwan.

In 2000, the first "microsat" was launched. Last year, a light-weight "nanosatellite" was launched, with surveillance and communications capabilities.

In the late 1990s, the UK's Rolls Royce supplied China's Xian Aircraft Corp with advanced turbo fan engine blade technology, enabling the production of long-lasting blades, and allowing the Chinese firm to build the long-delayed JH-7A fighter bomber for the People's Liberation Army (PLA) navy and air force.

The new plane can deliver precision guided bombs and modern anti-ship missiles. The aircraft can "make a key contribution to emerging PLA strategies to overwhelm the defenses of US Navy carrier battle groups," Fisher said.

EU companies like Eurocopter and Italy's Augusta have also co-operated with China, allowing Beijing to develop an indigenous long-range attack helicopter industry. Last October, Eurocopter and the Chinese Helicopter Research and Development Institute agreed to co-develop a high-technology transport helicopter to fly by 2010.

Technical cooperation

* Surrey Satellite Technology has helped Tsinghua University develop an advanced micro satellite technology

* Rolls Royce supplied technology that helped China build a new fighter bomber

* Eurocopter and Augusta have helped China develop an attack helicopter industry

* Germany and France have supplied diesel engine technology that is being used in China's attack subs

On the sea, Germany and France have supplied China with diesel engine technology to help modernize its navy. German diesels are used in China's "Song-A" conventional attack subs, posing a threat to US and allied forces. In the early 1990s, the Type 039 submarines took on French influences. As a result, the Type 039A marks a considerable advance over earlier subs, including a modern skewed propeller, sophisticated synthetic external hull insulation and quiet electric motors, making it very difficult to find.

In addition, it is likely that French stealth technology has enabled the PLA to produce a new stealthy frigate that can be used to enforce naval blockades and hunt US submarines. These frigates apparently have a new stealth hull shaping very similar to the French Lafayette-class frigates sold earlier to Taiwan -- which led to an infamous scandal over payoffs and technology leaks to China.

On land, trucks designed by Italian firm Iveco and co-produced in China are arming PLA army and airborne units, giving them greater mobility and flexibility. The trucks, armed with new anti-tank missiles, allow troops to be sent in further from heavily defended targets and making more troops available for an invasion, according to Fisher.

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