Monday, October 11, 2010

Obama proposes to sell China C-130s

By Hao Zhou

US President Barack Obama has proposed to Congress terminating the suspension of C-130 cargo aircraft export licenses to China, according to a letter published Friday on the White House's website.

This proposal, which is regarded by some Chinese analysts as blandishments to China after the US stiffly pressed China to revaluate its yuan, is still subject to review and approval by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The White House didn't release the quantity or price of the C-130s in the proposal.

If it gets the green light, the C-130 transport aircraft, nicknamed "Hercules," would become the first heavy military equipment that the US has exported to China since 1989.

Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 family found uses in a variety of roles, including cargo transportation, troops and medical evacuation, airborne assault, search and rescue, maritime patrol and even aerial firefighting.

However, Song Xiaojun, a Beijing-based military expert, downplayed the significance of Obama's proposal.

"I don't think Beijing is very much in need of such an aircraft model, though the China-made military transport planes, compared with C-130, are still left behind in terms of engines and electronic aviation equipment," Song told the Global Times, adding that the C-130s that the US intends to export to China is only for civilian use.

He said the motives behind Obama's proposal might be aimed at "blandishing China after recent tensions caused by the US, such as pressing for the yuan's appreciation, arms sales to Taiwan and military exercises in waters close to China."

In the mid-1980s, when China-US relations enjoyed a short honeymoon period, the US sold China a bunch of S-70 helicopters, a model of the UH- 60 Blackhawk designed for civilian use.

After bilateral ties soured, Washington suspended the exports of parts for the S-70s, so China could hardly fly those S- 70s anymore, another military expert told the Global Times on condition of anonymity.

"What Beijing wants to buy from Washington is always blocked, and what the US wants to sell to China is always something that China doesn't need," he added.