Did Israel sell sophisticated U.S. military technology to China? The U.S. State Department has launched an investigation to determine if Israel is using American technology to help China beef up its air force, State Department officials have confirmed.
Israeli officials have vehemently denied the charge that they gave American technology to China for a recently completed prototype fighter jet.
The Chinese plane is based in part on a joint U.S.-Israel project, called the Lavi fighter, that was scrubbed seven years ago due to escalating costs.
Israeli officials are under investigation for passing U.S. technology from that project to the Chinese without American approval, according to a State Department official.
U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry, who is visiting the Middle East this week, said on the eve of his departure, “We are looking into it, and if it turns out to be accurate, we will have some difficult words for the Israeli government.”
If investigators conclude that Israel gave U.S. technology to the Chinese without permission, the Jewish state could face economic sanctions, officials said.
This is not the first time that Israel has stood accused of passing on American military technology. In 1993 an extensive investigation vindicated Israel of charges that Patriot missiles were sold to China.
Defense officials in Washington say charges such as these are not uncommon.
“This is a gray area,” one official said. “Countries frequently improve on military technology and can then sell it as their own.”