US National Security Adviser John Bolton has accused China of stealing secrets of the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet and using them as the basis to develop a stealth warplane of its own.
Speaking at a press conference in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on Wednesday, Bolton said China’s Chengdu J-20 fifth generation fighter jet is in many ways similar to it American rival.
"The fifth-generation Chinese fighter aircraft looks a lot like the F-35, that's because it is the F-35, they just stole it," Bolton said.
Bolton went on to link the issue to the ongoing trade war between China and the United States, repeating long-running claims by President Donald Trump and previous US administrations that the Chinese are stealing American intellectual property over the past decades.
Trump initiated what is effectively a trade war with China last year, when he first imposed unusually heavy tariffs on imports from the country. Since then, the two sides have exchanged tariffs on more than 360 billion dollars in two-way trade.
Beijing, accusing Washington of practicing “naked economic terrorism” against the country, has opposed the US tariff hikes, saying they are harmful not only to China and the US, but to the whole world.
Trade talks between the US and China collapsed in May after Washington sharply hiked tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, prompting Beijing to retaliate.
"The US and China are having significant differences over trade now,” Bolton said. “It's not just about the imbalance of exports and imports between the United States and China … It's about the fundamental reasons why that imbalance exists."
Beijing has yet to respond to the claim.
First unveiled in 2011, the fifth-generation Chinese aircraft is generally seen as a direct response to America's F-35 stealth fighter jet.
In December, the US military was caught using for training purposes a full-size replica of the Mighty Dragon at a military facility near the Savannah-Hilton Head Airport in Georgia, home to the US Air Dominance Center (ADC).
The Marine Corps Training and Education Command (TECOM) said in a statement that it was “contracted with the US Army Threat Systems Management Office to provide full-scale, realistic aircraft and vehicle mock-ups for multiple Marine Corps bases,” including the J-20 model.
Bolton made similar claims against Russia earlier this month, accusing Moscow of stealing US technology related to the development of hypersonic weapons.
The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the claim, saying Washington itself had stolen countless technology designs from different countries around the world.
Russia successfully tested its hypersonic glide vehicle, dubbed Avangard, in December 2018.
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the test as a major achievement, saying that the intercontinental hypersonic system was impossible to intercept as it could reach speeds 20 times faster than the speed of sound when flying in the atmosphere.
The US has sped up its plans to develop a similar weapon ever since while China is said to have finalized its design.