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Israel Selling China Military Technology, C.I.A. Chief Asserts

By Michael R. Gordon
October 12, 1993 Anno Domini

Israel has sold advanced military technology to China for more than a decade and is moving to expand its cooperation with Beijing, says R. James Woolsey, the Director of Central Intelligence.

The C.I.A. assessment was provided in written responses to questions by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. The committee made the assessment public last week as part of a report on recent hearings it conducted on "proliferation threats of the 1990's," a committee aide said tonight.

There have been many news reports about the sale of Israeli military technology to China, which did not establish diplomatic relations with Israel until 1992, and the Rand Corporation has made similar assessments. The C.I.A.'s response to the committee was reported tonight by NBC News and confirmed by the aide. Jets, Missiles, Tanks

The C.I.A. says China has been acquiring advanced military technology from Israel for more than a decade on programs for jet fighters, air-to-air missiles and tanks. The agency said the sale of Israeli military technology to China "may be several billion dollars."

Despite the previous reports, the bluntness of the C.I.A. assessment surprised Congressional specialists and appears to reflect a growing concern among American intelligence experts that China is seeking to use Israel indirectly to obtain military technology that United States and other Western nations have refused to sell to Beijing.

The intelligence agency reports that despite worries in the West about China's military buildup and its export of missile systems and other weapons to Pakistan, Iran and other nations, Israel has continued to share military technology with the Chinese.

"Building on a long history of close defense industrial relations -- including work on China's next generation fighter, air-to-air missiles, and tank programs -- and the establishment of diplomatic relations in January 1992, China and Israel appear to be moving toward formalizing and broadening their military technical cooperation," Mr. Woolsey said.

Explaining its assessment, the agency noted that Beijing and Tel Aviv recently signed an agreement to cooperate in sharing technology in a number of areas, including electronics and space. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel was visiting Beijing today to discuss the broadening of Israeli-Chinese ties.

In addition, an increasing number of Israeli military firms also have opened offices in China to sell their products.

"Beijing probably hopes to tap Israeli expertise for cooperative development of military technologies, such as advanced tank power plants and airborne radar systems, that the Chinese would have difficulty producing on their own," the agency said. Likely Pressure From Congress

The agency's assessment is likely to provoke calls by members of Congress for greater scrutiny of the sale of American military technology to Israel. While there is strong support in the Congress for providing Israel with the money and technology to keep its armed forces strong, there has long been worry that Israel might resell some of the technology to other nations.

Ruth Yaron, spokeswoman at the Israeli Embassy, said tonight that she had not seen Mr. Woolsey's statement and could not immediately comment on it.

The four-paragraph C.I.A. statement to the committee did not say the Israelis had been re-exporting American technology, but that has been a concern for United States officials. The assessment also comes a week after China angered the United States by conducting an underground nuclear test. Verification of End-Use

An August report by the General Accounting Office, for example, asserted that the United States had not adequately supervised the sale of American technology to Israel for its program to develop the Arrow anti-missile interceptor. As a result, the G.A.O. asserted, there was a risk that some of the technology might be diverted to other nations.

"No checks were performed to verify the end-use and destination of U.S.- provided items and technologies," said the report by the G.A.O., which is the investigative arm of Congress.

At the same time, some American concerns about the sharing of technology to Israel have not turned out to be well founded. In the Bush Administration, the United States accused Israel of sharing American-made Patriot missile technology with China in violation of United States-Israeli agreements banning such diversion.

Israel denied the allegation. After an American team visited Israel to look into the charge, the State Department said its investigators had found "no evidence that Israel had transferred a Patriot missile or Patriot missile technology" to China.

Israel is not the only nation that is selling military technology to China. In recent years, Russia has sold advanced fighters, missiles and military technology to China.

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Woolsey wrote Operation Dragon