China arming terrorists
Inside the Ring
By Bill Gertz
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published June 15, 2007
China arming terrorists
New intelligence reveals China is covertly supplying large quantities of small arms and weapons to insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban militia in Afghanistan, through Iran.
U.S. government appeals to China to check some of the arms shipments in advance were met with stonewalling by Beijing, which insisted it knew nothing about the shipments and asked for additional intelligence on the transfers. The ploy has been used in the past by China to hide its arms-proliferation activities from the United States, according to U.S. officials with access to the intelligence reports.
Some arms were sent by aircraft directly from Chinese factories to Afghanistan and included large-caliber sniper rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades and components for roadside bombs, as well as other small arms.
The Washington Times reported June 5 that Chinese-made HN-5 anti-aircraft missiles were being used by the Taliban.
According to the officials, the Iranians, in buying the arms, asked Chinese state-run suppliers to expedite the transfers and to remove serial numbers to prevent tracing their origin. China, for its part, offered to transport the weapons in order to prevent the weapons from being interdicted.
The weapons were described as "late-model" arms that have not been seen in the field before and were not left over from Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq.
U.S. Army specialists suspect the weapons were transferred within the past three months.
The Bush administration has been trying to hide or downplay the intelligence reports to protect its pro-business policies toward China, and to continue to claim that China is helping the United States in the war on terrorism. U.S. officials have openly criticized Iran for the arms transfers but so far there has been no mention that China is a main supplier.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Wednesday that the flow of Iranian arms to Afghanistan is "fairly substantial" and that it is likely taking place with the help of the Iranian government.
Defense officials are upset that Chinese weapons are being used to kill Americans. "Americans are being killed by Chinese-supplied weapons, with the full knowledge and understanding of Beijing where these weapons are going," one official said.
The arms shipments show that the idea that China is helping the United States in the war on terrorism is "utter nonsense," the official said.
John Tkacik, a former State Department official now with the Heritage Foundation, said the Chinese arms influx "continues 10 years of willful blindness in both Republican and Democrat administrations to China's contribution to severe instability in the Middle East and South Asia."
Mr. Tkacik said the administration should be candid with the American people about China's arms shipments, including Beijing's provision of man-portable air-defense missiles through Iran and Syria to warring factions in Lebanon and Gaza.
Apologists for China within the government said the intelligence reports were not concrete proof of Chinese and Iranian government complicity.
Pentagon spokesmen declined to comment. A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Iran boat threat
Iran is adding Chinese-made small boats armed with anti-ship cruise missiles to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps navy that can be used in attacks on shipping in the oil-rich Persian Gulf, according to the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI).
"Iran still states that the [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps navy] will employ swarming tactics in a conflict," ONI analyst Robert Althage said in an e-mail, noting that the paramilitary organization "continues to add boats armed with anti-ship cruise missiles, such as the FL-10, to its inventory."
China began supplying Iran over the past several years with small, high-speed C-14 catamarans armed with the optically guided FL-10 anti-ship cruise missiles.
Mr. Althage said in response to questions posed by Bloomberg News that recent exercises by the Iranians did not show any new capabilities and that the maneuvers appeared designed "for publicity."
Currently, Iran operates three Russian-made Kilo submarines but has not yet mined waterways, the ONI analyst stated.
A 2004 ONI report said the Iranian IRGC navy has more than 1,000 small boats ranging in length from 17 to 60 feet, and many are concentrated near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, where a large majority of the world's oil passes.
The boats can be used in attacks against shipping and include infantry weapons, unguided barrage rockets, recoilless guns, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.
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