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Bolivia to buy Chinese aircraft, denies arms race

The K-8 Karakorum, also called Hongdu JL-8, is a joint project between China and Pakistan. A file photo.

LA PAZ (AFP/PTI): Bolivian President Evo Morales has denied his country was engaged in a regional arms race, insisting the purchase of six Chinese light military aircraft would serve to fight drug trafficking.

“This purchase of aircraft does not threaten anyone, they're not for war,” Morales said in anticipation of domestic and international criticism.

“The aircraft purchase is aimed at the fight against drug trafficking and not... any arms race,” he added at a ceremony commemorating the 52nd anniversary of the Bolivian Air Force on Saturday.

Bolivia plans to buy the Chinese K-8 Karakorum jets at a cost of $57.8 million after a similar order of Czech planes was blocked by the United States amid a diplomatic spat with Washington after Morales expelled the US ambassador and US counternarcotics agents last year.

Morales had last year tried to buy six L-159 ALCA two-seater light combat aircraft, made with US components, from the Czech Republic for $58 million, but the leftist leader disclosed in July that Washington had vetoed the sale.

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