China restricts civilian drone exports, citing Ukraine and concerns over military use

BEIJING (AP) – China on Monday imposed restrictions on the export of long-range civilian drones, citing Russia’s war in Ukraine and concern that drones may be converted for military use.

It is the government of Chinese leader Xi Jinping friendly with Moscow but says it is neutral i 17 months old war. It has been stung by reports that both sides may be using Chinese-made drones for reconnaissance and possibly strikes.

Export controls will take effect Tuesday to prevent the use of drones for “non-peaceful purposes,” the Commerce Department said in a statement. It said some drone exports will still be allowed.

China is a leading developer and exporter of drones. DJI Technology of the global industry’s biggest competitors, announced in April 2022 that it was pulling out of Russia and Ukraine to prevent its drones from being used in combat.

“The risk of some high-spec, high-performance civilian unmanned aerial vehicles being converted for military use is constantly increasing,” the Commerce Department said.

Restrictions will apply to drones that can fly beyond the natural line of sight of operators or stay in the air for more than 30 minutes, have attachments that can throw objects and weigh more than 7 kg (15½ pounds), according to the ministry.

“Since the crisis in Ukraine, some Chinese civilian drone companies have voluntarily suspended their operations in conflict areas,” the commerce ministry said. It accused the US and Western media of spreading “false information” about Chinese drone exports.

The government on Friday defended his trades with Russia as “normal economic and trade cooperation” after a US intelligence report said Beijing may have supplied equipment used in Ukraine that could have military applications.

The report cited Russian customs data that showed Chinese state-owned military contractors supplied drones, navigation equipment, fighter jet parts and other goods.

That The Biden administration has warned Beijing of unspecified consequences if it supports the Kremlin’s war effort. Last week’s report did not say whether any of the trades cited could trigger U.S. retaliation.

Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin declared before the February 2022 invasion that their governments had a friendship without borders. Beijing has blocked efforts to criticize Moscow at the UN and has repeated Russian justifications for the attack.

China has “always opposed the use of civilian drones for military purposes,” the commerce ministry said. “The moderate expansion of drone control by China this time is an important measure to demonstrate the responsibility of a responsible big country.”

The Ukrainian government appealed to DJI in March 2022 to stop selling drones it said the Russian ministry was using to target missile attacks. DJI denied allegations that it leaked data on Ukraine’s military positions to Russia.

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