Israel admits weapons sales to China, disputes CIA report


BEIJING -- Israel's prime minister, Yitzak Rabin, acknowledged during a state visit yesterday that his country had sold arms to Beijing, but he disputed a U.S. intelligence estimate of the size of the sales and insisted that they did not violate any restrictions on transferring American weapons technology.

At a news conference, Mr. Rabin responded to a CIA report in Washington suggesting that, over the last decade, Israel had sold several billion dollars worth of arms and military technology to China.

"All these stories of billions of dollars of arms business in the past 10 years are total nonsense," he said.

He declined to discuss the specifics of Israeli military assistance, but he said that Israel's reported annual trade with China undermines the CIA estimate. The figure for 1992 was about $60 million, he said.

He said that with the exception of a sale of American jet fighters to Ecuador, Israel has "never transmitted items of technology that we got from the United States" under restrictions that prevented re-export.

"We are not stupid enough to endanger" Israel's annual $3 billion aid package from the United States, and its long-standing military and intelligence-sharing ties with Washington, by violating the licensing agreements that go with U.S. arms and weapons technology provided to Israel, he said.

Israel is believed to have assisted China in improving its missile arsenal, including surface-to-surface missiles used as offensive weapons, surface-to-air missiles used in air defense and air-to-air missiles used in air combat.

Improving China's tank armor and providing airborne early warning technology are also believed to be part of the Israeli assistance.

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