WASHINGTON (Jun. 16)
Secretary of State George Shultz said Thursday that the range of the F/A-18 fighter planes the Reagan administration wants to sell to Kuwait “is not sufficient to conduct any sortie against Israel from Kuwait.”
Shultz was testifying at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, where he was told by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) that he and Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) are working to “make certain there are some guarantees in the event that this sale takes place.”
He asked Shultz whether the plane’s combat radius could be extended “in a way that would enable them to attack Israel from Kuwait.”
Shultz responded that the F/A-18 Hornet, which up to now has not been sold to any Third World country, won’t have a refueling capability, so “it isn’t going to have its range extended by that means.”
He added that the proposed $1.9 billion sale is “something of a political breakthrough, that Kuwait is prepared to in a sense tic itself to our equipment by making this substantial and important purchase.”
LARGEST ARAB SALE THIS YEAR
The sale — apparently the largest that will be proposed this year to any Arab country — is designed to protect Kuwait, a Persian Gulf state, from air or naval attacks from Iran, Shultz said.
The appropriations include 300 Maverick missiles; 200 Sparrow missiles; 120 Sidewinder missiles; 40 Harpoon missiles; 400 laser-guided bombs and 200 cluster bombs.
The administration informally notified Congress June 10 of the proposed sale. Formal notification is expected within 20 days, followed by a 30-day period in which the Senate would have to vote to block it to prevent it from automatically going through.
When DeConcini asked Shultz if Kuwait has contributed to the peace process in any significant way, Shultz responded that Kuwait has not been “particularly prominent one way or another.”
The senator also asked how much financial support Kuwait gives to the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Shultz said, “I don’t know whether the number is available, but undoubtedly they do give support.”
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) asked Shultz if a precondition for the sale could be a statement from Kuwait that it recognizes Israel’s right to exist.
Shultz responded that getting such a statement “would be a pretty difficult thing to do,” even though I don’t have any doubt about the fact that Kuwait recognizes Israel is there and there to stay.”