China is secretly supplying large quantities of small arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan (and to insurgents in Iraq), according to a report in Friday’s Washington Times. Iran is paying for the shipments of these sniper rifles, bullets, rocket-propelled grenades, and components for roadside bombs. The article claims that China, at its own suggestion, even transported some of the materiel to avoid interdiction. The arms in question are of recent design and may have been delivered as recently as three months ago.
This is by no means the first report of links between China and the Taliban. On or soon after September 11, 2001, Beijing signed an economic and technical assistance agreement with the Taliban, and in the weeks following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, China built a communications system for Kabul. Allied forces found Chinese munitions in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s defeat, and there have been scattered reports of such dealings over the past decade. (The Chinese embassy declined comment on the Washington Times report.)
The article also states that Beijing has rebuffed American attempts to stop the recent arms shipments by denying any knowledge and then asking for intelligence on the transfers. This is China’s standard tactic when confronted with claims of its duplicitous conduct. If Beijing can track down three Falun Gong practitioners in a remote upland village in Gansu province, how can it not know about a decade of arms sales to the Taliban by its state-owned factories?
Chinese weapons are killing American soldiers. The Bush administration, incredibly, is letting Beijing get away with it. This year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has cited repeatedly Iran’s supplying arms to Iraqi insurgents and to the Taliban, but he has not said one public word about China’s involvement. If the Chinese believe they can commit hostile acts against the U.S. with impunity, it is largely because of Washington’s lack of response to their belligerent conduct.
Last Tuesday, President Bush dedicated a memorial in Washington to the victims of global Communism with a stirring speech. Yet it is wrong for him to deliver inspirational words about the casualties of that murderous ideology and not to say anything about China’s creating more of them—especially when the new ones are American men and women in uniform.