PLA looks to Europe for arms

THE People's Liberation Army is looking to eastern Europe and some western European countries for sophisticated weapons, according to military analysts.

This is in addition to the successful military relationship forged with Russia in the past two years.

Submarines have replaced aircraft carriers as the focus of the procurement efforts of the navy, the branch of the military with the largest budget.

A high-level delegation led by logistics chief General Fu Quanyou finished a five-day visit to Poland at the weekend.

Other countries on General Fu's itinerary include Hungary and Romania.

The New China News Agency (NCNA) reported from Warsaw that General Fu, a member of the policy-setting Central Military Commission (CMC), had held talks with the Polish Deputy Defence Minister, Jan Kuriata, and the Acting Chief of Staff, Edmund Bolociuch.

''Fu was briefed on the logistic structure of the Polish Army and its officer training and supply system,'' the NCNA said.

''Both sides expected increased co-operation between the two armed forces.'' Other delegations that have recently been to the former eastern bloc include those led by CMC vice-chairman General Liu Huaqing and the vice-naval commander, He Pengfei.

Western and Asian military analysts said the PLA's priority was to acquire state-of-the-art submarines.

''Submarines are seen as vital to the projection of China's naval might,'' one said.

''The Chinese, however, have temporarily shelved plans to either import or build aircraft carriers because of reservations expressed by the West and by its neighbours.'' The analysts said that aside from the former Soviet bloc, PLA buyers had also been looking at naval vessels produced by western European countries, including Sweden.

''Beijing is taking advantage of the fact that western Europe has virtually lifted its embargo on the sale of weapons to China,'' a Western diplomat said.

''Moreover, Russian hardware has become slightly less attractive because Moscow is less and less willing to accept part of their payment in barter.'' The PLA has also made overtures to the United States on the resumption of military exchanges, stopped after the June 4, 1989, crackdown.