China Could Be Making Shahed-style Suicide Drones For Russia, Officials Warn

Recent reports suggest that Russian and Chinese companies are collaborating to replicate Iranian drones for use in the Ukraine conflict.

Chinese and Russian businesses have reportedly been in negotiations since 2023 to clone Iran’s Shahed drone family, according to sources cited by Bloomberg. The agreement is still in the testing and development stage. Despite repeated warnings from the US and its allies, Beijing’s backing for Moscow would have significantly increased if China sent these drones to Russia.

President Xi Jinping has tried to keep an impartial position on the situation in Ukraine. On the other hand, Western authorities assert that China has been supplying President Vladimir Putin’s army with parts and other assistance.

Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for China’s embassy in the US, asserted, “China does not supply weapons to the parties involved in the Ukraine conflict and strictly controls exports of dual-use items.”

“In the Ukraine crisis, it is quite clear to the international community that it is calling for dialogue, striving for peace, fueling the fight, and inciting confrontation. We urge the relevant countries to stop fueling the fight and inciting confrontation immediately,” he added.

Ever since the war began, Russia has been using thousands of Shahed drones against Ukraine; it even built up a factory to mass-produce this relatively cheap yet efficient technology. Despite this, China continues to supply essential components to Russia, while North Korea, Iran, and other nations provide supplies. Authorities fear that China might develop Shahed-style drones in large quantities far more quickly than Iran or Russia, which would drastically alter the dynamics of the conflict.

The specific drone under development has not been identified. Still, Chinese defence websites and media outlets have reported on a kamikaze attack drone called the Sunflower 200, which resembles the Iranian Shahed 136.

“China takes every effort, every chance it can get to argue that somehow it’s a neutral player in this war in Ukraine, but in reality, the PRC is providing a long list of dual-use components, things like machine tools and microelectronics that are enabling Russia to pursue this war of aggression in Ukraine,” said Julianne Smith, US Ambassador to NATO.

“Here inside NATO, we’re making sure that we can expose the fact that the PRC is no longer a neutral player and warn China about the risk of getting behind Russia in this unprovoked war of aggression,” Smith said, underscoring the significance of disclosing China’s involvement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy also highlighted this issue at the G-7 summit, stating that President Xi had promised not to supply weapons to Russia. If these reports are accurate, they raise questions about President Xi’s assurances and China’s stance in the Ukraine conflict.

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