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Will Pakistan give the downed Navy SEALs helicopter to China?

As Congress prepares several ways to challenge U.S. aid funding to Pakistan following the revelation that Osama bin Laden had been hiding there for years, one senior congressman is highlighting the Pakistan-China relationship as a key reason to distrust Islamabad. "In 1998 Pakistan’s military and intelligence services facilitated the transfer to Communist China of a ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

As Congress prepares several ways to challenge U.S. aid funding to Pakistan following the revelation that Osama bin Laden had been hiding there for years, one senior congressman is highlighting the Pakistan-China relationship as a key reason to distrust Islamabad.

"In 1998 Pakistan’s military and intelligence services facilitated the transfer to Communist China of a Taliban recovered unexploded American Tomahawk cruise missile, which we fired in an attempt to kill Osama Bin Laden and members of al-Qaeda. The Communist Chinese reversed engineered the missile and dissected its components allowing them to learn its vulnerabilities and defeat its capabilities," stated a May 9 "Dear Colleague" letter sent to all lawmakers from the office of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

The title of Rohrabacher’s letter reads, "Is Pakistan Planning to Give Our Secret Special Forces Helicopter to Communist China?"

"Pakistan must immediately return the debris to avoid compromising American secrets," the letter stated. "If this is not done now it is probable, given Pakistan’s history, that the debris will find its way into the hands of the Communist Chinese military that is buying, building, and stealing the necessary military technology to challenge the United States."

The letter comes at a particularly sensitive time, as over 100 Chinese officials are in Washington today for the first day of the U.S.-China Security and Economic Dialogue, hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Rohrabacher has long been critical of the Chinese government. During Chinese President Hu Jintao‘s visit to Washington in January, he compared Chinese officials to Nazis because of their treatment of religious and ethnic minorities.

On May 5, Rohrabacher introduced a bill to completely defund U.S. assistance to Pakistan. As of today, the bill has no co-sponsors.

But while Rohrabacher’s bill may never be passed, his frustration with Pakistan’s handling of nuclear and military technology, including its disbursement of nuclear technology through the network of scientist A.Q. Khan, is increasingly seen on Capitol Hill  as evidence that Pakistan’s suspected harboring of bin Laden is not an isolated incident.

"The Pakistani government has built and proliferated nuclear weapons and technology around the globe in contradiction of American security. Yet, the Pakistan government continues to benefit from huge sums of American cash," his letter stated. "They are laughing at us."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin