Brian Ellsworth / Patricia Rondon / John O'Callaghan
May 11, 2008
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday the OPEC nation will buy Chinese military training planes, expanding recent arms purchases and further cementing a growing relationship with China.
Chavez in recent years has stepped up purchases of weapons and planes. Washington accuses the self-styled revolutionary of carrying out an arms spending spree that could destabilize the region.
Venezuela and China on Friday signed an accord to build a refinery on Chinese soil as part of a broader plan to reduce Venezuela's reliance on U.S. energy markets.
"We're going to buy Chinese K-8 planes," Chavez said during his weekly Sunday broadcast, calling them "excellent planes for the boys."
"We continue working on the issue of military equipment, even though they accuse me of launching an arms race," he said. "I'm not launching an arms race. Military expenditures are necessary for the country's defense."
Venezuela has also bought 24 Sukhoi fighter jets and 100,000 Kalashnikov AK-103 assault rifles from Russia.
Top White House officials have questioned the arms purchases given there have been few military conflicts in the region.