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US Senators: China Blocking Probe of Counterfeit Electronics

Sen. Carl Levin (R) and Senator John McCain talk about the Chinese government's failure to cooperate in an ongoing Senate Armed Services Committee investigation into counterfeit parts in the Defense Department supply chain, on Capitol Hill in Washington,

Two high-ranking U.S. senators are accusing China of hindering a probe of counterfeit electronic parts detected in the multi-billion-dollar U.S. Defense Department supply chain.

The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin of Michigan, said the fake electronic components include counterfeit microprocessors purchased by the U.S. Air Force for flight control computers, and counterfeit microcircuits in missile defense hardware.

Appearing at a news conference at the Capitol, Levin said the problem must be thoroughly investigated and promptly corrected.

“Counterfeit electronic parts pose a risk to our national security, pose a risk to the reliability of our weapons systems," he said. "The proliferation of counterfeit goods also damages our economy and costs American jobs."

The allegations of counterfeit parts surfaced in a report last year by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Levin said inquiries by his committee and the U.S. Commerce Department yielded strong indications that the fake components originated in China’s southern Guangdong province.

Levin said he and the ranking Republican on the Committee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, want to dispatch members of their staff to Guangdong to conduct interviews with electronics suppliers there.

“Senator McCain and I have tried for the last many weeks to get the Chinese embassy here and the consulate here to issue visas to our staff, without success," he said. 'The Chinese have said, ‘Well, even if this could be arranged, there would have to be a Chinese official present during the interviews.' That is a non-starter. We do not have [to allow] somebody looking at our staff while they are interviewing people who are relevant to an investigation.”

The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to VOA requests for comment on the matter.

Appearing alongside Levin, McCain argued that Chinese intransigence on the matter is unwise for both nations.

“The United States and China are not destined to be adversaries," said McCain. "We have overlapping interests, and this is actually one of them. It should be in Chinese interests not to have counterfeiting of these electronic parts going on, because it would harm legitimate Chinese companies as well.”

Levin said staff investigators are in Hong Kong, and will make another attempt Wednesday to secure visas for travel to Guangdong.