U.S. officials are quietly complaining to Israel about that country's latest sale of sophisticated military airborne radar equipment to China, a Clinton administration official said last night.
Israel, which has a long history of military sales to China, recently mounted a multimillion-dollar radar system on a Russian-made cargo plane bound for the Chinese air force. U.S. officials worry about advances that significantly broaden Chinese military capabilities, especially in light of that nation's ongoing tensions with Taiwan.
"We are concerned about technology transfers from Israel," an administration official said last night. "We have raised this issue repeatedly with the Israelis," and renewed such conversations in the wake of the most recent sale.
"We don't believe in this particular case it's technology of U.S. origin," the official said. Some critics, however, say it is difficult to distinguish between strictly U.S. and Israeli military technology because Israel long has relied heavily on U.S. military transfers.
The official said the United States is discouraging Israel from making further transfers of airborne radar technology to China. The radar sale to China was reported this week by the Associated Press. The administration's complaints were first reported in today's editions of the New York Times.
The administration official interviewed last night said the White House and Pentagon recognize that Israel has the right to make certain military sales to other countries. But U.S. officials raise complaints, he said, when such sales "could advance capabilities of countries that are opposed to the views of the United States" on major matters. Those countries include China, he said.
In his trip to Israel last month, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen discussed U.S. concerns about military technology transfers to China, administration sources said.