- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 18, 2001

China is stepping up construction of an air-defense system in Iran near the border with Afghanistan as Tehran fears U.S. military operations will spill over into its borders, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
U.S. intelligence officials said work by Chinese technicians on an advanced radar system known as JY-14 was detected near Iran's border with Afghanistan in the past week.
"They're building up an air-defense system," said one intelligence official familiar with the reports.
A second intelligence official said, "The Chinese have been involved in helping Iran build air defenses for some time" and added that the work did not appear to violate arms protocols.
The Chinese company working in Iran to build the integrated tracking and missile-interceptor system was identified as the China National Electronics Import and Export Corp., a state-run company based in Beijing.
A Bush administration official said China's military cooperation with Iran could lead to U.S. sanctions, although air-defense radar work is only one of several areas under scrutiny.
The 1992 Iran-Iraq Nonproliferation Act passed by Congress calls for sanctions on any nation that sells weapons deemed destabilizing to Iran or Iraq.
China has been involved in helping the arms programs of a number of states officially listed by the State Department as state sponsors of terrorism, including Iran, Iraq and North Korea.
A Chinese company, Huawei Technologies, helped install fiber-optic communications with military applications in Iraq.
The same company, along with a second Chinese firm, also was involved in constructing a telephone switching system in Kabul for the ruling Taliban militia, which the Bush administration has identified as a major supporter of the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
China also has been covertly providing missile technology to North Korea.
Iran has denied the use of its airspace or territory for U.S. and allied strikes on Afghanistan. But Tehran has said it would provide aid to U.S. military personnel in distress from the conflict.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday that Iran's offer to help U.S. military forces who landed in distress on its territory had contributed to the isolation of the Taliban regime.
But he said that the reported offer of search-and-rescue operations amid the U.S. bombing campaign in neighboring Afghanistan would probably not be required.
"Iran has always been hostile toward the Taliban, and as you know, we have been in touch with them through various channels. We are exchanging some ideas and information," Mr. Powell said.
However, Tehran's Foreign Ministry called the U.S. and allied attacks on Afghanistan "unacceptable."
Iran moved troops to its eastern borders in the Khorassan and Sistan-Baluchistan provinces in early October and sealed the border with Afghanistan. There are currently large numbers of Afghan refugees on the Afghanistan side of the border with Iran.
U.S. intelligence officials said the Iranians are braced for some type of attacks.
Disclosure of the Chinese air-defense activity in Iran comes amid a press report stating that the Bush administration is considering waiving sanctions on China so that military equipment can be sold to Beijing's security services as part of Washington's global anti-terrorism efforts.
The administration official said there is a debate under way in the administration on whether to lift sanctions on China for its missile sales to Pakistan.
"It would be a huge mistake to lift sanctions on China right now," said the official. "That would leave us in a weaker position on China's proliferation activities than the Clinton administration."
Chinese officials recently refused U.S. requests to tighten Beijing's export controls, claiming it could not do so under pressure from the United States, officials said.
In August, the Bush administration imposed economic sanctions on China and Pakistan for trading in missile technology. China supplied equipment for Pakistan's nuclear missiles in violation of a pledge made in November not to export any goods that could assist foreign nuclear-missile systems.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, officials within the State Department East Asia bureau, led by Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, have tried to have the sanctions lifted.
Other officials in the Pentagon are opposing the lifting of sanctions because of China's refusal to halt arms sales to terrorist states and unstable regions of the world.
State Department spokesman Phil Reeker denied a report in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post that the administration was considering a waiver on sanctions that would allow the sale of spare parts for China's S-70 Black Hawk helicopters. "That report is wrong," he said.
Iran has been purchasing the JY-14 radar system since the late 1990s. A CIA report from October 1996 on "Arms Transfers to State Sponsors of Terrorism" revealed that China had shipped components for one of several JY-14s being built in Iran.
The JY-14 is a sophisticated radar that provides long-range surveillance of aircraft and missiles as part of an automated air-defense system. It can track up to 100 targets simultaneously and feed the data to missile-interceptor batteries.
It can track targets flying as high as 75,000 feet and 186 miles in distance.

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