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Inside the Ring
BLACK HAWK PARTS
China’s government recently asked the Bush administration to waive sanctions that bar the export of military spare parts for Beijing’s U.S.-made Black Hawk helicopters, aircraft purchased during the 1980s and now being used by China’s military for earthquake relief efforts in Sichuan province.
A White House spokesman, however, said he is unaware that the president is considering a waiver on the restrictions imposed on the helicopter parts transfers after the 1989 military crackdown in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
China’s government made the request for the helicopter parts after the Bush administration offered assistance to China in the aftermath of last month’s deadly earthquake.
The helicopter parts waiver was last raised publicly in 1996, when the Clinton administration considered but then rejected transferring the Sikorsky-made helicopter through a presidential waiver.
China purchased 24 Black Hawks in the mid-1980s when ties between the two governments were warmer, but has had trouble keeping the aircraft flying because of the embargo. All military sales were cut off by Congress after China’s use of military troops against unarmed protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
In an apparent effort to bolster the Chinese diplomatic request, recent state-run news video and photographs from China showed several of the Chinese Black Hawks airlifting people and supplies from the Sichuan quake zone, even though most of China’s military helicopters are Russian-made M-17s.
U.S. officials declined to provide details on the Chinese waiver request because of concerns about discussing diplomatic exchanges but confirmed that the request was made.
One reason many administration national-security officials oppose a waiver is it would undermine U.S. law-enforcement efforts. In recent years, Chinese agents made several attempts to illegally acquire Black Hawk parts in the United States.
A former military intelligence official said the Chinese in the past have used retired U.S. generals to lobby for lifting the restrictions on Black Hawk spare parts. Specifically, a 1996 lobbying effort was blocked after military intelligence obtained a photograph of a Chinese Black Hawk that had been sold on the condition that it not be used for combat, outfitted with a 133-millimeter canon used during a military exercise simulating an invasion of Taiwan.
The photo “stopped the U.S. generals and the embassy short” in the effort to waive parts export restrictions, the former official said.
A Chinese Embassy spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Former Pentagon official Michael Pillsbury revealed Wednesday that China’s concept of deterrence includes the use of military forces in a “warning strike.”
Mr. Pillsbury, a China military specialist, stated during a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation that he has identified a dozen flash points around the world where China’s military and political leaders would allow “raw nerves” to trump rationale and attack a neighboring state without warning, as it did in the past in Korea, India and Vietnam and along the Russian border.
About the Author
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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