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U.S. Launches an Investigation into Alleged Israeli Sales to China

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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.

During a meeting with Defense Secretary William Perry this week in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin assured Perry that there was no such transaction.

Rabin told Perry that Israel honors its agreements with the United States and is sensitive to American concerns and laws.

Last week, Perry said the United States would have some “difficult words” for the government of Israel if the claims about an illegal transfer of American technology to China proved true.

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.

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 this 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.”

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