BEIJING — China has rejected media reports that Pakistan gave it access to a radar-evading helicopter that crashed during the U.S. mission to kill Osama bin Laden, calling them “preposterous.”
The international business newspaper Financial Times reported Sunday that Pakistan allowed Chinese military engineers to photograph and take samples of the stealth chopper before giving it back to the U.S.
In its first public response, China’s Defence Ministry said in a one-line statement late Tuesday, “This report is baseless and preposterous.”
The U.S. suspects that Pakistan shared the technology with China in retaliation for its May 2 raid that killed bin Laden on Pakistani soil, humiliating Islamabad.
A Pakistani official has denied the charge, saying Pakistan was aware the U.S. had bin Laden’s compound and the helicopter wreckage under round-the-clock surveillance after the raid, so it would know whether foreign technical experts had examined it.
The helicopter was one of two modified Black Hawks that defence experts said evidently used radar-evading technology plus noise and heat suppression devices to slip across the Afghan-Pakistan border, avoid detection by Pakistani air defences and deliver two dozen Navy SEALs into the hiding place of the al-Qaida leader.
One of the choppers crash-landed during the mission. Before leaving with bin Laden’s corpse, commandos blew up the main body of the chopper, apparently to keep its stealth components secret.
Photos of the wreckage with the tail still visible flashed around the world, drawing immediate chatter among defence experts who noticed it appeared to have previously undisclosed technology.
The relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan took a nose dive after the bin Laden raid, which prompted celebrations in the U.S. but anger and embarrassment in Islamabad. Ties were already strained despite billions of dollars in American aid over the last decade because of Pakistan’s reluctance to target Taliban militants on its territory who stage cross-border attacks against NATO troops in Afghanistan.
In contrast to the fickle Washington relations, Pakistan calls its relationship with China an “all-weather friendship.” China provides Pakistan with aid and investment, while Pakistan offers Beijing diplomatic backing, including among Islamic nations who might otherwise criticize China’s handling of its Muslim Uighur (pronounced WEE’-gur) minority.
The two also both distrust India. China fought India in a brief but bloody 1962 border war, and Pakistan has fought its neighbour three times since 1947.