Key U.S. Senators Warn China on Military Parts

Beijing tolerates 'brazenly open market' for counterfeit electronics, lawmakers charge.

Two key U.S. senators angrily pressed China on Monday to crack down on firms blamed for counterfeit electronics that end up in U.S. military hardware, warning such components could endanger U.S. national security.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat, accused Beijing of tolerating "a brazenly open market" in the city of Shenzhen in Guangdon province, which he described as the epicenter of the illicit trade.

Levin slammed China's embassy for denying committee investigators the necessary visas to travel to mainland China and quoted one official as saying the probe concerned "sensitive" issues that could be "damaging" to bilateral relations.

"What is damaging to U.S.-China relations isn't our investigation, it's China's refusal to act against brazen counterfeiting which endangers our troops and our missions," he said at a press conference one day before a hearing on the issue.

Senator John McCain, the top Republican on Levin's committee, noted that counterfeit electronics -- used parts made to look new and are sold as new -- had turned up at the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, in a submarine-hunting helicopter and in a military cargo jet.

"We can't tolerate the risk of a ballistic missile interceptor failing to hit its target, a helicopter pilot unable to fire his missiles or any other mission failure because of a counterfeit part," he said at the press conference.

The lawmakers spoke out one day before the armed services committee was to hold a hearing into the issue, with government investigators, officials from Raytheon, L-3 Communications and Boeing, as well as the head of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, Army Lieutenant General Patrick O'Reilly due to testify.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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