We are currently trialling our new-look independent.co.uk website - please send any feedback to beta@independent.co.uk


Israel accused of selling US secrets to China

ISRAEL has sold at least dollars 2bn ( pounds 1.3bn) to dollars 3bn of hi-tech military equipment to China, seriously undermining US efforts to limit the sale of advanced weapons to the Chinese. A Senate report due out later this week says the Israeli exports include military technology developed by the US, and which Washington expressly forbids from being exported to China.

Officials accompanying Israel's Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, on a visit to China confirmed that Israel had done deals but would not elaborate. The CIA told the committee the Chinese were seeking from Israel technologies that Western firms were unwilling to provide.

Those sold by Israel are said by specialists to include technology for the Python - the Israeli version of the US Sparrow air-to-air missile - and technology developed for the US-financed Lavi jet, which the Israelis cancelled some years ago.

The US is also concerned that Israel may have passed on technology for the Arrow anti-missile missile, a joint US-Israel project, which is based on the Patriot missile used in the Gulf war.

The Israeli Defence Ministry director-general, David Ivri, accompanying Mr Rabin in China, said in response to the Senate report: 'There are security relations (between Israel and China) but I cannot relate either to numbers or the substance of deals themselves.' Morton Miller, a former state department analyst, said the real figure for sale of Israeli arms to China was between dollars 8bn and dollars 10bn.

James Woolsey, the director of the CIA, told the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs: 'Peking probably hopes to tap Israeli expertise for co-operative development of military technologies - such as advanced tank power plants and airborne radar systems - that the Chinese would have difficulty in producing on their own.' He said the Chinese wanted to interest the Israelis in using Chinese facilities for launching satellites.

China and Israel have had formal ties only since January 1992 but secret military deals go back much further. They include the upgrading of the Chinese tank force and avionics. Chinese Eastwind ballistic missiles sold to Saudi Arabia against Israeli objections were improved by Israeli technicians.

The CIA says Israeli defence firms are opening offices in Peking and other Chinese cities to promote their products.