New US sanctions for companies that train Chinese military pilots
by John Ai

Washington announces measures against Chinese and foreign companies for training military pilots and contributing to weapons development. Recruitment of military retirees from NATO countries in use for more than a decade. On the eve of Secretary of State Blinken's trip, expected in Beijing June 18, White House concern over spy base in Cuba.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The United States has imposed new sanctions on companies that Washington says are contributing to China in training military pilots and aiding in research and development of new weaponry.

The administration of U.S. Democratic President Joe Biden released a list containing 43 names in China and other foreign nations that will be added to the list of those already under export controls, including a pilot school in South Africa. Companies on the sanctioned list have limits and constraints on purchasing goods exported from the U.S. for activities deemed contrary to the U.S. national interest.

One pilot school, the Test Flying Academy of South Africa, has been placed on the U.S. list of sanctioned companies. The center had long been under the lens of the London government because it allegedly on several occasions recruited retired British military pilots, who would then put Chinese military colleagues through training sessions. Analysts and experts believe that Beijing's recruitment of pilots from the Atlantic Alliance (NATO) dates back more than a decade and has continued over time. 

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius met with his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu earlier this month, taking the opportunity to urge Beijing to stop the practice, particularly with regard to the recruitment of retired pilots from Germany's military.

In addition, the Berlin-based intelligence agency claims that the retired pilots would also be responsible for passing on to the rival country military skills and tactics that could come in handy later for China to attack Taiwan. 

The British Defense Ministry has found that 30 military experts, including some who have flown sophisticated fighter jets, have been hired to train fellow Chinese People's Liberation Army (Pla) members, often behind lucrative contracts. Authorities in Lodra fear the practice could threaten national security and have stepped up cooperation with allies to stop the hiring scheme by China.

With this in mind comes news of the arrest of former U.S. fighter pilot Daniel Edmund Duggan, who was detained in Australia for training Chinese military pilots last year. Duggan was also charged by the U.S. with giving instructions on tactics, techniques and procedures associated with launching and landing on an aircraft carrier, violating arms trafficking laws.

A security and aviation company, Frontier Services Group, is also on the list. A company previously led by Blackwater founder Erik Prince.

A number of Chinese entities are listed for acquiring raw materials originating in the United States for China's military modernization, such as the development of hypersonic weapons.

Two Chinese companies are sanctioned for allegedly providing technology to Beijing's top leadership to monitor Uighurs and other ethnic groups in Xinjiang. In this regard, the Chinese government denies allegations of systematic human rights violations and the use of re-education camps in Xinjiang. This is a routine denial, which clashes with the much evidence provided in this regard by international ngos and activist groups.

Beijing has criticized the sanctions imposed by the United States, and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin urged the other side to "stop abusing export control measures." The U.S. Secretary of State is expected to visit the Chinese capital on Sunday, June 18.

The White House has expressed concern about the Chinese espionage base in Cuba, announced just on the eve of Antony Blinken's visit to Beijing, the main purpose of which is to mitigate the risk of confrontation between the two powers after the frictions (if not clashes) of recent months.

The long-planned trip was postponed in February after the United States shot down a Chinese spy balloon. Another piece in the complicated mosaic of relations between the two nations, which for many experts and analysts are at their lowest level in years.