Chinese ambassador sees closer trade and defense ties with Israel

"If I do business with you, no-one else has the right to interfere."

Chinese ambassador to Israel Chen Yonglong has condemned the efforts by the US to choke off trade in arms between Israel and China. He said the two countries had joined together in a strategic partnership that would break into a more glorious dawn.

This is one of the most enthusiastic statements about Israel ever made by China. According to assessments in Washington, it means that the rift between Israel and China over the "Phalcon" AWACs affair has completely mended.

The statement also indicates that China is prepared to court Israeli defense exports despite the Bush administration's continuing opposition to new deals, such as the sale of IAI-made "Harpy" UAVs to the Chinese military.

The Chinese ambassador spoke at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem last week. His comments were reported by US weekly "Defense News".

Chen said China hoped to double its trade with Israel over the next three years, from $2.5 billion in 2004, to over $5 billion in 2008. He said bi-lateral trade was growing at an annual rate of 40%.

The ambassador was asked about the arms trade between Jerusalem and Beijing and about US claims that Israel is China's second largest arms supplier, after Russia. He avoided giving further information, but stressed that China did not represent a military threat to the US, and that Washington's efforts to halt defense trade between the two countries were unjustified.

"In principle," he said, "I think that if I do business with you, no-one else has the right to interfere."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on April 12, 2005

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