Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Pentagon yesterday announced it will resume arms technology transfers to Israel that were curbed as a result of Tel Aviv’s weapons sales to China.

The United States and Israel reached an understanding that “is designed to remedy problems of the past that seriously affected the technology security relationship between [U.S. and Israeli] defense establishments and which begins to restore confidence in the technology security area,” the Pentagon said in a joint statement with Israel.

Additional steps are expected in the next months that will “restore confidence fully,” the statement said.

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said the understanding is a “step forward” but that Israel must do more before technology sharing is restored completely.

The understanding creates “a process for consultation” between the U.S. and Israeli governments on arms sales, he said.

Specifically, Israel has agreed to adopt controls outlined in the 1996 Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies.

Israel also agreed to “reorganize” Defense Ministry export controls and create an intergovernment arms-export control system, he said.

“This also provides for a consultative process that allows the U.S. and Israel to reach a common understanding with respect to arms sales to China,” Mr. Whitman said.

In June, the Pentagon slashed weapons and technology transfers to Israel because of Israel’s plan to upgrade Harpy anti-radar flying bombs sold earlier to China.

The ban included limitations on a range of defense programs, including Israeli participation in the Joint Strike Fighter.

The Harpy, an unpiloted aircraft with a bomb that homes in on radar, was first sold to China in 2001. In April, China asked Israel to upgrade the drones, triggering U.S. limits on military cooperation with Israel.

Defense officials first spotted the drones during large-scale Chinese military exercises opposite Taiwan in 2003.

Defense officials are concerned that Israeli weapons will be used against U.S. forces in any conflict with China over Taiwan, which broke with the mainland in 1949.

Israel also has sold air-to-air missiles and jet-fighter technology to China. The CIA in the 1990s caught Israel supplying China with technology from U.S. Patriot anti-missile systems.

A Pentagon report on China’s military released last month stated that over the past decade Israel and Russia were China’s “primary foreign sources” of weapons and arms technology.

The report said Israel sold Harpies to China in 2001 and conducted maintenance on drone parts in 2003 and 2004.

The Pentagon said the new agreement “underscores the commitment of the U.S. and Israel to work together to address global security challenges.”

“Cooperation between the U.S. and Israel is important to the security of the Middle East and we expect that cooperation to continue.”

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