Applause for Chinese president drowns out concerns over his military |

Applause for Chinese president drowns out concerns over his military

by John L. Smith

While Hu Jintao toured the United States and was warmly embraced from the White House to Bill Gates’ estate, a criminal case that should have embarrassed the Chinese president barely made a sound.

There was broad coverage of windy speeches about improving trade relations between the United States and China while the Asian giant’s abominable record on human rights generated a light scolding from the Bush administration. The Chinese president received an elaborate greeting ceremony at the White House that included an honor guard and 21-gun salute. Although strict observers of presidential protocol might quibble, Hu received the general equivalent of a state visit.

During the week, Hu dropped in at an Everett, Wash., Boeing factory and received hugs from employees who will benefit from the expansion of commercial air travel in China.

With the exception of a few hecklers in the crowds and in Congress, Hu received the rock star treatment.

But it would have been refreshing if some high-ranking American official had taken time to openly question the willingness of military officials of the People’s Republic of China to secretly sell surface-to-air missiles to terrorists in the United States.

That’s right. Our business ally China was involved in a thwarted deal to ship hundreds of QW-2 shoulder-fired missiles to this country via a circuitous route designed to fool our intelligence network and U.S. customs officials.

Surface-to-air missiles are easily capable of knocking those fancy Boeing airliners out of the sky.

The missile deal was a central component of an FBI undercover investigation known as Operation Smoking Dragon, which culminated Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles with the guilty plea of Chao Tung “John” Wu, a 51-year-old La Puente, Calif., man with dangerous Chinese and North Korean contacts. Wu’s alleged co-conspirator, Yi Qing Chen of Rosemead, Calif., is scheduled to go on trial later this year.

As part of his guilty plea, Wu admitted he helped broker a deal that would have brought hundreds of missiles into the United States through a scheme that involved influencing government officials in China, Cambodia and Paraguay in order to mask the military arms as machine parts. A man named “General Wang” was identified as a high-ranking Chinese official who was willing to use his contacts with state-run arms manufacturers to broker the deal.

Wu also used his elaborate smuggling contacts to produce $2 million worth of North Korean-printed “supernotes,” counterfeit $100 bills of extremely high quality. Some of those bills were tested in Las Vegas casinos, sources with knowledge of the case have confirmed.

“Wu, Chen and unindicted co-conspirators allegedly were to pay bribes to customs officials in other countries to ensure the shipment,” a Department of Justice news release stated. “One payment was to be a $2 million bribe to an official in a foreign country. The missiles were never delivered because Wu and Chen were arrested last August before the deal was concluded.”

The unnamed country was Cambodia, according to information I’ve obtained. After the scope of the negotiations changed, sources say the beard country became Paraguay.

After Wu and Chen were arrested, their contact in the People’s Republic of China continued to attempt to make the deal with the undercover agent, according to information contained in the Chen indictment.

It’s hardly the first time the state-owned Chinese arms companies have been involved in selling weapons to our enemies. In 2003, eight Chinese businesses were nailed for selling weaponry to Iran. And it’s no secret that China and North Korea continue to maintain cordial and complex relations.

Let’s recap, shall we?

You have the Chinese president honored from coast to coast while one of his generals allegedly has been cooking up a deal to sell hundreds of surface-to-air missiles to an American he believed to be a rogue arms broker. You have another example of the continuing threat of millions in North Korean supernotes to our economy. Not to mention the 400 kilos of methamphetamine and vast quantities of Ecstasy Wu admitted he planned to smuggle into the United States.

For the record, you also have the first conviction under an anti-terrorism law designed to punish those who illegally sell missiles and their technology.

But never mind all that.

Let’s stand and give a big round of applause for our friendly business ally President Hu, shall we?

• John L. Smith’s column, reprinted from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, appears on Thursdays on the Appeal’s Opinion page. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295.