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China slammed for blocking inquiry

| Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee blasted China on Tuesday for not allowing investigators into the city of Shenzhen to investigate the alleged manufacture there of counterfeit U.S. military parts.

"Chinese protectionism appears to have taken a new form -- protecting counterfeiters operating in public markets in China from the scrutiny of the U.S. Congress," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., told the Tribune-Review in an e-mail.

For four days last week, Senate staffers waited in Hong Kong, trying to get visas to visit Shenzhen. Chinese officials said no.

Their refusal "speaks volumes about China's willingness to confront the fact that, according to industry experts and U.S. government reports, many counterfeit electronic parts that make their way into the U.S. Department of Defense's supply chain originate in China," Levin said.

Levin and ranking minority member Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., last week urged the Chinese to allow the investigators into the mainland. At the time, McCain said, "There's every possibility that those counterfeits could cripple our ability to have those (military) systems work in the fashion for which they were designed."

Senate investigators centered their suspicions on Shenzhen, a southern China metropolis just north of Hong Kong that is the center for many foreign and Chinese high-tech manufacturers.

A committee staff member said three investigators made the trip to Hong Kong.

The Defense Department has played down the possibility that its supply chain has been seriously compromised.

Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan told the Trib: "Anytime you're dealing with counterfeiting, it is a serious problem, but that doesn't mean extensive." She said there were procedures in place to locate and eliminate counterfeit equipment.

The Senate began investigating in part because a Government Accountability Office report cited examples of counterfeit equipment making it into the supply chain.

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