China claims sale of 'logistics items,' not arms
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
China´s government yesterday denied selling
weapons to Cuba, but the State Department said it was investigating arms
and explosives transfers to the island.
Zhang Yuanyuan, a Chinese Embassy spokesman, said in an interview that Beijing has not shipped weapons to the communist island off the U.S. coast.
"China and Cuba have diplomatic relations, and the two countries´ militaries have relations," Mr. Zhang said. "For some years, China has supplied the Cuban
military with logistics items -- never arms."
He declined to specify what type of equipment was transferred.
Asked if explosives were delivered, Mr. Zhang would not answer directly but said, "explosives could be used for civilian purposes, to clear some mine shaft."
State Department lawyers and arms officials, meanwhile, are reviewing intelligence reports about the military shipments delivered to Cuba on China´s state-run
shipping company over the past several months, said a senior department official.
If the deliveries are deemed "lethal" assistance, they could trigger a 1996 law requiring U.S. sanctions against China.
The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said an earlier review showed that Chinese military goods sent to Cuba did not appear to fit the department´s
definition of "lethal" assistance.
The new review is focusing on the delivery in December of a shipment of explosives with both military and commercial uses that could be considered lethal aid
under U.S. law. It also is focusing on other arms transfers.
"People are looking to see what else there might be," one official said.
Under a 1996 law, any nation that provides lethal military assistance to a nation identified as a state sponsor of international terrorism must be slapped with U.S.
economic sanctions. Cuba is among the nine states designated as terrorism sponsors.
U.S. intelligence officials told The Washington Times that a well-known Chinese arms dealer had arranged at least three shipments of weapons last year from
China to the Cuban port of Mariel.
The last shipment in December included what U.S. officials called "dual-use" explosives and detonation cord that could be used for either military arms or
All the shipments were made on freighters belonging to the state-owned China Ocean Shipping Co. (Cosco).
Cosco spokesman Aaron Forel said yesterday he would not comment on any military deliveries by the company to Cuba.
"I can´t really respond," he said. "I´m only capable of talking about Cosco."
Cosco is a "commercial entity" whose activities "are purely commercial and always legal, in conformance with all international maritime and port regulations," Mr.
Forel said. "We have never knowingly shipped any illegal cargo."
U.S. Customs Service officials intercepted a Cosco shipment of 2,000 Chinese AK-47 assault rifles that were being delivered to San Francisco in 1996. The
shipping line also has been linked in the past by U.S. intelligence to arms and missile component deliveries to such countries as Pakistan and North Korea.
Despite the Chinese government´s denials, James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, told a House committee on Tuesday that the issue involves
He testified that he planned to "get more fully briefed on the arms to Cuba."
"We´re very much concerned with this [People´s Liberation Army] cooperation and movement of military equipment into Cuba," Mr. Kelly told the House
International Relations Committee.
On Capitol Hill yesterday, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and a member of the Armed Services Committee, said he was "deeply concerned" about
reports of Chinese arms transfers to the communist island.
"I think Congress should oversight it," Mr. McCain said, noting that reporting by The Times on similar issues "has credibility with many of us here on the Hill."
"It´s one in a series [of violations]," Mr. McCain said. "We know that they have been providing optic capabilities to the Iraqis to improve their defense
capabilities. We know of the port facility they have in Pakistan. So there´s a series of actions taking place. So I think we not only ought to look at that specifically,
but at Chinese actions overall."
China came under fire from the Bush administration earlier this year for providing military technology to Iraq, specifically a fiber-optic communications network
with military applications.
Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and also a member of Armed Services panel, said China´s previous behavior has raised his concerns over the Cuba
"If this were just one isolated case, where China has sold arms to Cuba, that would be one thing. However, this is a behavioral pattern that has persisted since
1996 when they made the statements about the rockets in the Taiwan Straits, trying to influence the [Taiwanese] election."
Mr. Inhofe said China´s belligerence toward the United States was highlighted by the reported remarks of Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian, who said last
year that war with the United States over Taiwan was "inevitable."
"They´ve been positioning themselves, and this is just one more position," Mr. Inhofe said. "On top of that, saying that war is inevitable, I just see this as a
consistent behavior pattern that is continuing to be scary. I think we ought to have hearings on all of these things. Of course we have had some."
• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.