US bans S. Korea from sending jet to Chinese airshow, sends its own plane instead
China’s International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, which started on Tuesday this week in Sanzao Town, Jinwan Province, is showcasing military planes from only three foreign nations: the United Arab Emirates, Russia and the US.
But with a massive Boeing C-17 Globemaster III arriving at the event on behalf of the US only days after Washington rebuked a request from Seoul to have a South Korean jet with American insides partake in the expo, the Department of Defense is being accused of hypocrisy and more as defense officials examine the decision.
On Tuesday this week, Defense One’s Gordon Lubold and Marcus Weisgerber wrote that America’s participation in the airshow is raising eyebrows among DOD and security officials who, according to the reporters, suggested “political factors may have outweighed security, optical and even legal concerns.”
Those concerns, the reporters wrote, “have been enumerable.” Indeed, the US is being alleged to have acted hypocritically given the decision only days earlier to bar South Korea from bringing to the expo a T-50 training jet containing American-made technology. According to Defense One, “US security officials said demonstrating that plane would be in violation of international agreements.”
“US regulations prevent allies from sharing certain ‘munitions technology’ or military capabilities and US officials told the Republic of Korea they could not take the jet to the same Chinese air show,” Defense One reported this week. “That ruling angered Seoul earlier this month, making the US decision to send its own jet to the same air show appear that much worse to the South Koreans.”
Nevertheless, the Pentagon is now spending upwards of $350,000, according to the report, to send its own precious aircraft out east — even when the Boeing vessel’s security may have been compromised already. When the Department of Justice indicted Su Bin, the owner of a Chinese aviation tech company, earlier this year with theft of trade secrets, the government alleged that he infiltrated defense contractor computer systems in order to unlawfully obtain confidential details about various military programs, including the C-17 as well as the F-22 and F-35 fighter jets.
Additionally, America’s decision to showcase the C-17 at this week’s expo also comes in the midst of years’ of similar accusations in which Chinese nationals, some allegedly acting on behalf of the People’s Liberation Army, have engaged in a relentless hacking spree targeting contractors and agencies of various sorts. This week, China was accused of being behind the just announced breach suffered by the US Postal Service affecting the personal information of some 800,000 employees; China has previously outright rejected similar accusations.
“Sending the C-17 builds trust and strengthens partnerships with China and Asia-Pacific nations,” Lt. Col. Christopher Karns, a media operations chief for the US Air Force, told Defense One in an email. “The C-17 signals the Air Force’s capability to deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster relief through the Asia-Pacific region and across the globe.”
According to the journalists, though, policy officials say the “humanitarian assistance” angle provided by the Pentagon is the only viable way to legally have the C-17 attend the expo, since the National Defense Authorization Act prohibits America from demonstrating any sort of military tech to the Chinese except if relief operations are involved. Indeed, the aircraft has been used in past instances to transport medical personnel, among other cargo, including presidential limousines on some occasions.
Some, however, say the entire decision has been dubious. “It was just bad idea after bad idea,” one government official was anonymously quoted by Defense One with regards to sending the C-17 to the show.
“We’ve been canceling everything with Russia, and now we’re going to be within spitting distance of them,” said another official regarding the expo, which will place the C-17 on the same tarmac as Moscow’s military aircraft.