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. China Exploring Various Oil For Arms Deals

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by Andrei Chang
Hong Kong (UPI) Nov 5, 2008
The People's Republic of China has been making extensive efforts to penetrate the Middle East and Africa, especially by trading arms for oil.

In recent years China also has stepped up its efforts to acquire oil from Central and South America, again offering weapons in exchange, as well as space technology. Its top targets are Venezuela and Brazil.

Last month Venezuela sent its first communications satellite into space, built with Chinese technology and launched from China's Sichuan province. The Venezuelan air force also recently purchased three JYL-1 aircraft radar systems from China.

Venezuela under President Hugo Chavez has sought most of its military hardware from Russia. Among other things, it bought 24 Sukhoi Su-30MK2 air superiority combat fighters in 2006 and plans to purchase the upgraded Sukhoi Su-35 in its next stage of procurement, according to a source from the Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi.

At the same time, Venezuela aspires to acquire China's J-10A fighters; Chavez has disclosed that negotiations with the Beijing government have been under way for some time.

Venezuela and China are also close to a deal on the import of 24 Chinese-made K-8 trainer aircraft, according to a source within the Moscow aviation industry. Chavez announced the deal before his visit to China in September, but the Beijing government has not officially confirmed it.

It appears China has been actively promoting the K-8 to Latin American countries, however. A source from the Chilean air force told United Press International that China had offered Chile a very attractive price, and even offered to trade the aircraft for other goods.

In the case of Venezuela, it is likely the aircraft would be exchanged for crude oil. Once Venezuela receives the K-8 trainers, negotiations can be expected to go forward on the procurement of the J-10A fighters.

China, in fact, has been promoting the J-10As to Venezuela and Pakistan under a new name, the FC-20. Even if Venezuela imports more Sukhoi Su-30MK2s from Russia, its air force will still need a large number of cheaper air superiority combat fighters to strengthen its fleet.

The Venezuelan air force currently has 23 F-5 serial fighters, 16 French Mirage 50s and 22 U.S.-built F-16A/Bs. It may intend to procure the Chinese J-10As to replace the existing F-5 serial fighters.

Given the friendly relations between China and Venezuela, it is highly likely that China will send a team of air force pilots to Venezuela to study the latter's F-16s, in order to understand the features and performance of the U.S.-made aircraft, with which the Taiwanese air force is also equipped.

Chavez once claimed he would give F-16 fighters from the Venezuelan air force to both the People's Republic of China and to the Russian Federation.

(Part 2: How China woos Venezuela, Brazil)

(Andrei Chang is editor in chief of Kanwa Defense Review Monthly, registered in Toronto.)

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