China has sold “very limited” supplies of weapons to Venezuela as it increases its activities in Latin America, mainly for commercial reasons, a Defense Department official said Wednesday. David Helvey, an Asia expert at the Pentagon, declined to give details about the arms sales because he was not sure how much he could reveal during public testimony at the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. “Its activities in Latin America are increasing slowly over time. They start from a very low base but they have been progressively growing in recent years,” Helvey told the panel.
“I think most of their activities in Latin America (are) motivated primarily by commercial and economic interests, where they are seeking to expand access to trade for resources and secure access to markets” for their manufactured goods,” he said. “We have (also) seen some arms sales, very limited arms sales …to Venezuela,” Helvey said. When pressed for specifics, he said he would have to follow up with a written answer as he did not know what was appropriate for public discussion. “It has been very limited and we continue to watch that very carefully,” Helvey said.
He said the United States wanted to ensure that “China’s activities in Latin America or elsewhere be done in an open and transparent way, in a way that supports good governance, rule of law, human rights and is not disruptive to regional security dynamics.” The panel was set up in 2000 to monitor, investigate and submit to Congress an annual report on the national security implications of the US-Chinese trade and economic relationship. It can make recommendations to Congress for legislative and administrative action.