- The Bush administration has decided not to tell America
exactly how much business the Chinese army does inside the United States.
In a recent Freedom of Information response, the Commerce Department decided
not to disclose what a Chinese air force front company bought from America.
- According to the Commerce Department, the undersecretary
for the Bureau of Export Administration (BXA) has determined that "disclosure
would not be in the national interest."
- "Information about export licenses and license applications
that list China United Airlines as a consignee or end-user of the items
exported under the export license, are protected from disclosure,"
wrote Barbara Fredericks, the Commerce Department assistant general counsel,
in an April letter.
- However, the Commerce Department clearly was in the business
of selling something to foreign militaries. The recently declassified documents
show that the department was informed in 1994 that China United Airlines
is actually owned by the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).
- "China United Airlines (CUA) is a commercial entity
of the PLA Air Force," states a 1994 report on the Chinese military
issued by Lt. Col. Dennis Blasko, former U.S. defense attaché to
Beijing. Blasko's report on Chinese military industries was obtained by
a lawsuit against the Commerce Department in 1999.
- In addition, recently declassified documents from the
Defense Intelligence Agency state that in 1995 the DIA informed the Commerce
Department that China United Airlines was an enterprise "subordinate
to the PLA Air Force."
- Despite the clear lines of Chinese military ownership,
in 2000 the Commerce Department approved the sale of 10 American-made airliners
to China United. The Boeing airliners are now officially listed as part
of the People's Liberation Army Air Force and are being used as military
- The Commerce Department did release information concerning
China's "WTO Accession" detailing U.S. administration support
for the red Chinese application to join the World Trade Organization. The
department heavily blacked out the information, however, noting that the
details were withheld in order to protect "the agency's decision-making
- The newly released WTO information noted that China had
signed an "aircraft agreement" requiring that "signatories
agree to duty-free entry of some 250 specific products when these products
are imported for civil use."
- However, the Commerce Department withheld the consequences
of "when these products are imported for use other than civil aircraft."
- Commerce Department Arms Dealers
- It should not surprise many to find that the Commerce
Department is in the business of selling commercial items to foreign militaries.
However, the department is not supposed to authorize any exports to foreign
militaries. Despite this fact, the Commerce Department authorized the export
licenses for 10 Boeing jet transports now being used for military purposes.
- Even more importantly, the U.S. Commerce Department is
not authorized to license military items for export. For example, missiles,
warships, landing craft and fighter jets are licensed for export only by
the State Department and the Defense Department.
- Yet documents from the department show that the agency
in charge of civilian licenses was indeed heavily involved in foreign arms
sales. Documents obtained from the Commerce Department office of John Huang
show that the agency pressed Arab nations to purchase U.S. weapons.
- Warships for the United Arab Emirates
- In 1994 Commerce Secretary Ron Brown wrote a letter addressed
to Lt. General Shaykh Mohammed bin Zyed Al-Nahyyan, chief of staff of the
United Arab Emirates armed forces. In the letter, Brown pressed the commander
of the UAE armed forces to purchase advanced U.S.-made missile warships.
- "I am confident that Newport News Shipbuilding's
frigate FF-21 will be judged to be superior based on price, performance,
and logistical support. The selection of U.S.-manufactured frigates will
also ensure the great interoperability with U.S. naval forces stationed
in the Gulf and Arabian Sea," wrote Brown.
- "In this regard, the provision of two leased Oliver
Hazard Perry Class frigates [FFG-7] will provide excellent substitutes
while you await the delivery of your new ships," noted Brown.
- The Commerce documents show exactly how far the agency
went to help the UAE obtain the warships. The Bureau of Export Administration
(BXA), the section of the Commerce Department that authorizes foreign sales
of aircraft, computers and commercial security software to civilian end
users, pressed Congress to sell the warships to the UAE navy.
- "Related to this competition, is that until the
new ships are constructed and delivered, the UAE Navy will require leased
frigates to provide a bridge during the interim period," notes a Commerce
Department advocacy document.
- "The UAE has requested that the USN provide used
leased Oliver Hazard Perry class [FFG-7] ships, this requires approval
from Congress. BXA working with the DOD and the Department of State through
our role in the review of excess defense articles [EDA] sought to expedite
the FFG-7 frigate allocation process. After an extensive review of this
project and intensive lobbying by BXA on the need to provide these vessels,
the USG [U.S. government] approved the allocates of two FFG-7 frigates
to the UAE."
- Patriot Missiles for the United Arab Emirates
- Yet missile frigates were not the only weapon system
being pushed by the Commerce Department. Documents discovered in the offices
of John Huang show that the department also sought to sell the UAE "Ten
Patriot Air Defense Missile Systems."
- "Raytheon is seeking to sell 10 Patriot Fire Units
and 530 Patriot missiles for $1.4 billion. Raytheon in briefing to BXA
staff report that this sale is the number one priority for Raytheon. The
UAE is one of the few potential foreign Patriot customers that currently
has the cash to pay for them. Since the U.S. Army is no longer purchasing
the Patriot and new foreign contracts are lacking, this sale could have
significant U.S. industrial base implications," states the Commerce
- U.S. missile maker Raytheon wanted "oral and written
communications from Secretary Brown to UAE Crown Prince and Armed Forces
Chief of Staff supporting Patriot as critical to UAE/Arabian Gulf Air Defense."
- According to the Commerce documents, Raytheon faced stiff
competition for the UAE air defense contract from Russian-made SA-10 and
SA-12 systems and the French-made Aster missile system.
- "Raytheon reports that Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin
and Defense Minister Grachev as well as French Defense Minister Leotard
have advocated on this program," notes the Commerce document.
- "The UAE currently has the Raytheon HAWK missile
system so a Patriot purchase would provide interoperability and a common
missile/air defense architecture. The French system is still in development
and while the Russian system is reputed to be technically excellent, the
support structure is very poor," notes the Commerce report.
- John Huang Arms Dealer
- Additional military documents found in Huang's office
include details on artillery and landing-craft sales to Kuwait, attack
helicopter exports to the Netherlands and Patriot missile sales to South
- John Huang served as a banker for the Lippo Group, pulling
in a six-figure salary while employed by the Riady family from Indonesia.
Huang took a tremendous pay cut when he joined the Commerce Department.
- Huang also reportedly took a half-million-dollar bonus
from the Lippo Group upon his departure for his new job inside Commerce.
- Huang was briefed on many of the arms sales to Kuwait,
UAE and South Korea.
- Immediately after such briefings, Huang would walk across
the street from the Commerce Department to a firm owned by Jackson Stephens,
an old Arkansas friend of President Clinton, and place long-distance calls
back to Indonesia and the Lippo Group.
- It is ironic indeed that convicted Chinagate figure John
Huang, a man who cited his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination
when asked under oath if he acted as an agent for the Chinese military,
was privy to so many weapons sales for U.S. allies.
- Even more ironic is the fact that Raytheon requested
that Huang attend its detailed briefings on South Korean missile defenses,
North Korean missile capabilities and the proposed Patriot sales to South
Korea. It is obvious that South Korea, which is currently considering Patriot
missile purchases, will take a dim view of the details of its defenses
being given to John Huang.
- Pentagon Says Commerce Department Violated Law The Commerce
Department has also previously been accused of illegally approving military
technology sales. In December 1998, the Defense Department accused the
Commerce Department of issuing licenses to the Chinese military that constituted
a "defense service" within the meaning of the State Department's
International Traffic in Arms Regulations under the Arms Control Act.
- The Defense Department wrote, "This was clearly
beyond the scope of Commerce export control jurisdiction because only the
Department of State is authorized to issue licenses for defense services."
- Clearly, the State Department and the Defense Department
need to retake control of weapons export sales. The Commerce Department
is ill-equipped to deal with commercial aircraft sales, much less take
on peddling sophisticated weapons systems abroad. The Bush administration
should remove the leaky and unstable agency from its role in arms exports.