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French Arms for China
Charles R. Smith
Saturday, Nov. 8, 2003
Paris Wants to Drop Sanctions Against PRC


France and Germany want to drop Tiananmen Square sanctions against selling weapons to China. In fact, French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie recently proposed sharing sensitive military technology with Beijing.

According to a Beijing government white paper, the European Union will become the largest trade and investment force in China, and a prime candidate for major weapons deals. The move by Paris and Berlin is intended to claim multibillion-dollar arms deals in high-tech weapons for the Chinese army.

China already fields some French-made equipment, such as the Crotale air defense missile system and French-made sonar systems installed on attack submarines. China has also used a variant of the French Navitac command and control network for its newest warships.

The latest Chinese warship, the Jiangnan destroyer, dubbed the "magic shield of China," is reportedly outfitted with a wide array of French-developed electronics and stealth features. The warship is armed with a Russian missile defense system modeled after the U.S. Aegis battle platform.

China has already joined France and Germany in the Galileo space global satellite system, described as a direct challenge to the U.S. Global Positioning System. The French government also is collaborating with China on nuclear research.

The move is expected to impact Moscow, because China is currently the top arms market for Russia. Russia has sold billions of dollars of arms to China including nuclear-tipped Sunburn supersonic cruise missiles, SA-10C Grumble surface-to-air missiles, Sovremennyy-class destroyers and Sukhoi Su-27 jet strike fighters.

Nuclear Aircraft Carrier

The removal of sanctions against Beijing is likely to result in major weapons purchases from both France and Germany. The Chinese army would very much like to purchase French Mirage or Rafale jets and the Tiger attack helicopter. The Chinese have a major shortfall in helicopters and lack a modern attack helicopter.

In addition, the Chinese navy would like to collaborate with France on the purchase of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and nuclear-powered submarines. The Chinese navy also would like to purchase French- or German-made air cushion landing craft for a possible invasion of Taiwan.

The move by Paris and Berlin is expected to strain already tense relations with the United States. U.S. forces in Iraq have discovered large French-made arms caches purchased by Saddam Hussein after the 1991 U.N. ban on weapons sales to Baghdad. Some of the French-made weapons were manufactured as recently as 2001.

The European move to open weapons sales to China will add fuel to the raging arms race in Asia. The European weapons are certain to enter the inventory of Chinese client states such as North Korea and Pakistan.

China, Pakistan and North Korea currently share extensive ties in missile and nuclear weapons development. Each of the three countries has fielded large numbers of common missile designs. In addition, Chinese support for Pakistan and North Korea enabled the two states to acquire nuclear weapons.

Chinese Arms Race

Chinese-made nuclear weapons and missile technology are the prime driving force behind weapons development inside both Pakistan and North Korea. U.S. intelligence sources assert that Pakistan supplied North Korea with Chinese designs for gas centrifuges needed for the production of weapons-grade uranium.

During a recent trade trip to South Korea, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf denied that Islamabad had helped North Korea develop nuclear weapons. Musharraf said he had no evidence that Pakistan had helped the North Korean nuclear weapons program.

"There is absolutely no connection with North Korea on any defense-related matter," Musharraf said.

Despite the open statements from Musharraf, there is little doubt that Pakistan obtained missiles from North Korea. Pakistan currently fields the Ghauri missile, an identical copy of the North Korean No Dong missile.

In addition, North Korea recently provided Pakistan with 10 "Scud-B" missiles. The missiles, which were delivered to Islamabad by freighter in late February 2003, are believed by U.S. intelligence officials to be an "in-kind" payment to Pakistan for recent assistance to Pyongyang's nuclear program.

The nuclear missile threats from China, Pakistan and North Korea have already led to major weapons programs in Taiwan, Japan, India and South Korea.

South Korea announced that next month it would begin deploying U.S.-made missiles that can strike most of North Korea. The Tactical Missile System Block 1A missiles have a range of 186 miles and will be deployed near the Demilitarized Zone.

The South Korean move is expected to enrage the North Korean dictator, Kim Jung-il. Kim recently ordered two anti-ship missile tests off the coast of Japan in response to diplomatic moves by Washington to defuse the nuclear crisis in Korea.

North Korea has fielded an additional battalion of No Dong missiles, capable of striking all of South Korea and most of Japan. The new deployment brings the total number of active North Korean missile units to 18, including nine in the country's North Pyongyang province.

U.S. defense intelligence currently estimates that North Korea has 200 No Dong ballistic missiles in its arsenal and between 650 and 800 shorter-range Scud missiles.

Japan's defense spending is another indication that U.S. allies are reacting to Beijing's arms race. The Japanese Defense Agency has requested funding for 32 sets of Type 91 surface-to-air missiles and eight sets of Type 93 short-range missiles.

Japan has recently entered into talks with America on its intention to purchase Patriot PAC-3 anti-missile systems and the Aegis SM-3 missile for its Navy. In addition, informal discussions between Washington and Tokyo included a possible deal for U.S.-made Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles.
 
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