China To Provide Pakistan With 50 Fighter Jets
Pakistani officials said today that during a trip to Beijing, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had inked a deal in which China would immediately provide Pakistan with 50 JF-17 fighter jets.
The AP reports:
Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar said Pakistan was seeking delivery within six months of the JF-17 Thunder jets, a single-engine multirole fighter developed in cooperation between China and Pakistan.
Mukhtar, who was in Beijing with Gilani, gave no details about financing, but put the price per plane at $20 million to $25 million, higher than many defense experts' estimates of $15 million.
China's Foreign Ministry said it had no information about the agreement and calls to the Defense Ministry rang unanswered.
Of course, the news here is the message it sends to the United States: The deal was announced at a time when the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan is sour. It comes weeks after special forces killed Osama bin Laden in an Abbottabad compound without the permission or knowledge of Pakistan. The New York Times adds:
Mr. Gilani's visit to Beijing served as a pointed reminder of Pakistani suggestions that the government might seek to recalibrate relations with the United States, using China to offset what many here view as an overdependence on Washington.
The United States has provided Pakistan with some $20 billion in aid, mostly military, for its cooperation in fighting terrorism since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Much of that aid has come in the form of reimbursements for Pakistani counterterrorism operations.
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