IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz is meeting with his Chinese counterpart this week on the eve of critical talks with Iranian officials in Iraq. It is the first time in 16 years the IDF Chief of Staff has visited China.
China’s Chief-of-Staff General Chen Bindnge, who visited Israel last August, invited Gantz to China, where he already has won a previously unscheduled private meeting with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping of China. Xi Jinping is expected to be the next president, and the invitation for a personal visit was seen as evidence of the warm way in which the lieutenant-general is being received.
Gantz’s visit to China will include observing a live-fire exercise and a tour of the Jewish museum in Shanghai.
Gantz is to “discuss current security and strategic challenges, the regional security status in the Middle East and military cooperation,” IDF spokesmen said.
The talks in Iraq come against the background of harsh economic sanctions on Iran, mostly of them opposed by China, as Tehran continues its nuclear program without supervision.
China has a vested interest in Iran due to its being a major purchaser of Iranian oil.
China once enjoyed a growing military trade with Israel, but in 2005 Israel was forced by the United States to cancel a huge contract to update Chinese drones. Washington feared the American technology in the Israeli drones could be used by China against American allies.
The American ban on Israel’s selling military equipment to China remains in force, and Gantz is not expected to discuss possible back-door sales.