U.S. intelligence agencies have uncovered evidence that North Korea has agreed to secretly ship Scud missile components through China to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood-backed government.
Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon reports that intelligence information about the transfers was circulated last month to senior State and Defense Department officials, but the Obama administration has not challenged either China or North Korea over the deal.
Such shipments would violate United Nations sanctions imposed on Pyongyang over its missile and nuclear weapons tests. U.S. intelligence officials told the Free Beacon that Beijing has repeatedly violated those sanctions by providing technology and goods to the communist regime in North Korea.
Richard Fisher, a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said China's proliferation activities leave Israel facing a three-pronged Chinese-originated missile threat. It includes Egypt's Chinese-enabled missiles; North Korean missiles transferred to Iran with Chinese assistance; and Chinese missiles supplied to Hizballah.
During its 2006 war with Israel, Hizballah used this weaponry to devastating effect. A Chinese-supplied C-802 anti-ship missile struck an Israeli ship, the INS Hanit, off the coast of Lebanon, killing four Israeli sailors. The attack could have been much worse; most of the 80-member crew was eating dinner in the Hanit's mess hall, a location away from where the missile struck.
The Chinese missile strike "highlighted a tragic blindness in the Israeli military: It simply refused to believe that Chinese authorities would put a dangerous missile system of this magnitude in the hands of a nonstate actor" like Hizballah, Brett Decker and William Triplett wrote in their study of the Chinese strategic threat, Bowing to Beijing. Israel's military commander told a board of inquiry that the prospect of Chinese advanced conventional missiles like the C-802 missiles being transferred to Beijing seemed "unrealistic and imaginary."
This weapons trafficking is unlikely to end anytime soon because it is so lucrative. The weapons are usually produced by Chinese state-owned enterprises dominated by "princelings" – sons, daughters and grandchildren of senior Communist Party officials. It's not going to change absent a new willingness by Israelis and their American counterparts to challenge this behavior publicly, Decker and Triplett wrote.
But there seems to be no similar sense of urgency within Israel about Beijing's arming of its enemies. Israeli media accounts like this tend to focus on cultural issues, differing perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and the benefits of increased trade and improved diplomatic ties. An IDF honor guard welcomed a senior Chinese People's Liberation Army official during an official visit to Israel last year.
Israeli officials say privately that they are aware of China's duplicity but they think they can change it through engagement with the regime. That may ultimately prove to be the case, but thus far there isn't much evidence on the public record to support this theory.