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Is China Illegally Converting Civilian Aircraft For Military Use?

Recent Photos Show 737 Conversion

The Bush administration is reportedly investigating whether China is converting Boeing civilian aircraft for military purposes -- a move that would be in direct violation of American export laws.

It's also a move that could mean big trouble for Boeing, which is pushing hard to sell its new 787 Dreamliner to Chinese airlines.

The Washington Times reports a Boeing 737 was recently photographed at a Chinese air expo with what, for all the world, looked like a radome in the nose of the plane -- not the kind you'd expect on a civilian aircraft, but the kind you might look for on board a reconnaissance bird.

"There is a distinct possibility that China has illegally modified a US-made transport aircraft to perform military missions," said Richard Fisher, vice president of the International Assessment and Strategy Center and a specialist on the Chinese military.

"We have already begun looking into this matter," Eugene Cottilli, a spokesman for the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security, told Times reporter Bill Gertz.

The State Department also confirms the investigation, according to the Times.

Selling commercial aircraft doesn't necessarily require an export license, according to one official quoted in the Times story. But license or not, converting civilian technology for military purposes (as seen above) is against US law when done with US technology outside the US.

The US stopped all military sales to China after the 1989 Tienamen Square crackdown on civilian democracy protesters.

FMI: www.strategycenter.net

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