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May 21, 2012 9:46 am

Gantz’s Visit to China Not Expected to Yield Change on Iran or Military Cooperation

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Current IDF Chief of Staff. Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz (left). Photo: wiki commons.

China welcomed Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, the Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, on Sunday, for visits with Chinese military and political officials, just days before world powers meet in an attempt to negotiate an international agreement on the nuclear program of Iran, a nation which calls for the destruction of Israel and is the world’s 3rd largest exporter of oil to China.

However, the visit by Gantz, which follows a 2011 trip by China’s Chief of Staff General Chen Bindnge, to Israel, is not expected to change much on the Chinese or Israeli stances towards the Iranian nuclear issue, or the ban on Israeli military exports to China, favored and encouraged by the United States.

“The Iran issue is on the table all the time, it is constant,” said Yoram Evron, an expert on relations between China and the Middle East at the Institute for National Security Studies and Haifa University.  “There are other critical moments in which Israeli military officials did not visit China, so I’m not sure the two things are tightly related.”

Noting the U.S. political muscle which was used to secure an agreement from Israel on the matter, Evron said “Israel doesn’t export any military products to China.”

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“The major question here, and not just with the visit, but whether there is a change, a political or military change in strategic thinking towards China and I don’t think this visit can be or should be interpreted as something different,” he told The Algemeiner.

The Associated Press quoted an unnamed Israeli defense official who said that Washington was informed of Gantz’s expected visit to China, by Israel, in advance of the trip.

Gantz’s visit to the rising economic and military power will include meetings to “discuss current security and strategic challenges, the regional security status in the Middle East and military cooperation,” according to a statement released by the IDF.

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping of China scheduled time with Gantz in advance of the visit, which Evron described as an “act of reciprocity” following Bindnge’s visit to Israel in August of last year.

Xi Jinping is expected to become the next President of China.

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