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Israeli arms developers are once again marketing their wares in China despite the 2004 crisis that developed with the US over a sensitive arms deal, Defense Ministry Director-General Ya'acov Toren revealed on Wednesday.
"The military industries have returned to working on defense exports with China and other countries," Toren told reporters in his first press conference since taking office in September 2005.
"Defense exports were never an unsupervised business, and we require all of the industries who want to sell to submit the plans which we then review and approve according to the set criteria."
A severe crisis developed between Israel and the US in December 2004 after the Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) received unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) from China for what Israel said were standard repairs. The Pentagon claimed Israel was deceitful and that the UAVs were sent to IAI for upgrading.
In August 2005, the crisis was resolved after Israel and the US signed an understanding that effectively granted the US a veto over Israeli arms sales to selected countries that Washington felt compromised its national security.
One of the unwritten conditions was also the dismissal of long-time ministry director-general Amos Yaron.
"I didn't investigate the affair to see what happened and how we got developed a situation of a lack of trust between us and America," Toren said. "There were arguments and misunderstandings and personal differences, but I believed it wasn't significant."
"What is important," Toren added, "is that we have renewed the strategic dialogue with the US and most things are back to the way they used to be."
According to new procedures, military industries interested in exporting arms to China are required to first receive the Defense Ministry's approval for the marketing stage and the negotiations even before the sale itself.
"We don't approve everything," Toren said. In an effort to improve the supervision over defense deals, Toren has recently decided to establish a new exports division alongside the MOD's Foreign Defense Assistance and Defense Export Organization (SIBAT).
Toren added that he also planned to establish a strategic planning body for the defense establishment and the IDF and to enhance relations with foreign countries. "We don't have a strong enough presence abroad," he said.
While contracts valued at more than $3 billion were signed by Israeli military industries this past year, Toren said he would like to see an increase and that he was considering sending a defense attach to Japan - a post vacant for the past two years.
Defense deals, Toren said, was also a type of diplomacy that often preceded public relations between two countries. "When an Indian plane filled with Israeli systems takes to the sky, then [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon can go visit India," he said referring to Sharon's visit in September 2003.
During the talk, Toren revealed that the Rafael and Elta had performed a successful exercise on Tuesday with the revolutionary Trophy armored vehicle defense system. The new system intercepts and destroys missiles with a shotgun-like blast just before they hit the armored vehicle. US officials and representatives from other countries were present at the exercise.