A British defense company was allowed to supply an unlimited quantity of goods to China’s military, including airborne radar technology likely to be used by the People’s Liberation Army’s Air Force.
The supplier hasn’t been named, but the “open individual export license” was provided in April, according to information from Britain’s Department for International Trade. This happened two months after British Prime Minister Theresa May visited Beijing.
As reported by the South China Morning Post, previous deals between the UK and China were capped by amount and value. Under this new agreement, the supplier can “export an unlimited quantity of goods”, including equipment, components, software and technology for military radar systems, the department said.
Its strategic export control database described the equipment covered by the licence as “target acquisition, weapon control and countermeasure systems” for “aircraft, helicopters and drones”.
“It’s potentially a big license, and it does say the end user is the air force,” said Andrew Smith, a spokesman for the London-based NGO Campaign Against Arms Trade, cited by SCMP.
Usually such licenses are usually valid for 5 or 10 years, “the values are never published, so the figure could be very high,” Smith said.
China also buys equipment from other European countries. “Almost all the other big arms exporters do exactly the same,” Smith said.
The British trade department refused comment on the deal.
This is of significance in light of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call to the military region that monitors the South China Sea and Taiwan to “prepare for war,” on October 25th.
Xi ordered the military region to assess the situation it is facing and boost its capabilities, so it can handle any emergency.
The Southern Theatre Command has had to bear a “heavy military responsibility” in recent years, state broadcaster CCTV quoted him as saying.
“It’s necessary to strengthen the mission … and concentrate preparations for fighting a war,” Xi said. “We need to take all complex situations into consideration and make emergency plans accordingly. We have to step up combat readiness exercises, joint exercises and confrontational exercises to enhance servicemen’s capabilities and preparation for war.”
Details of Xi’s speech were released on October 26th, one day after China’s State Councillor General and Defence Minister Wei Fenghe said “China is the only big nation in the world that is not unified … And the Chinese military has a heavy responsibility to not let a single inch of its territory be lost. “If there is anyone attempting to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will take action.”
Wei Fenghe’s comments came after US Congress approved a $330 million arms sale to Taiwan on October 25th. The deal marks the second US arms sale to Taiwan in less than 18 months under US President Donald Trump. The administration approved an initial US$1.4 billion deal in June 2017, in a show of support and deepening defence ties between Washington and Taipei.
China strongly opposes any US arms sales and official contact with Taiwan. Prior to the approval of the arms sale, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang last week also urged the US “to correct its mistakes [and] stop any official contact and military ties with, and arms sales to, the Taiwan region.”
The Pentagon, when it promoted the sale in September, said the deal would “contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security and defensive capability of the recipient, which has been and continues to be an important force for political stability, military balance, and economic progress in the region.”
The US also added that “the proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”
This all follows constant provocations by the US against China in the South China Sea and the Taiwan strait.
Earlier in October, a Chinese destroyer almost collided with a US warship in the South China Sea. According to the US, the Chinese warship made an “unsafe and unprofessional” maneuver.
Prior to that, US B-52 bombers flew on a patrol round above Chinese territorial waters, once more, to which China responded with its own aircraft drills in the same region.
Most recently, on October 22nd, the US Department of Defense sent two US warships through the Taiwan strait in another clear provocation to Beijing. Taiwan’s defense ministry and the Pentagon say the warships passed through international waters. Taiwan said it was aware of the “routine” operation and reiterated its capability of defending its maritime territory and airspace security.
The US is unrelenting in its pressure on China, namely in terms of trade, the South China Sea and Taiwan. This, however, is pushing China into even closer relations with Russia and Iran, among other regional allies, something that presumably goes against the US interest of global dominance.