New reports again raise the specter that Pakistan gave Chinese military engineers access to examine the wreckage of the U.S. stealth helicopter that crashed during the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan.
Pakistani intelligence operatives likely gave the Chinese access to the wreckage, the New York Times reported, citing American officials and other intelligence sources. A US official conceded to CNN National Security Producer Pam Benson that the US has "reason to suspect China was given access but we cannot confirm it definitively. We have strong suspicions.”
The Chinese engineers were able to photograph the wreckage and take samples of the stealth skin that helps the chopper avoid radar detection, intelligence sources told the Financial Times.
When the aircraft crashed during the raid that killed the al Qaeda leader in May, Navy SEALs destroyed most of it to protect the technology. But the tail section remained mostly intact and it was that area that the Chinese engineers examined, according to the New York Times report.
It took several weeks before the helicopter wreckage was returned to the United States and even back in May there were reports and denials that the Chinese had been given a look.
U.S. intelligence is basing its opinion that the Chinese got access to the stealth copter on intercepted phone conversations, the Times reported.
A Pakistani senior intelligence officials denies the story outright to CNN's Islamabad correspondent Reza Sayah.
"This is story is unsubstantiated and false. Such stories are counterproductive when it comes to US Pakistani relations," the ISI official said.
But aUS official tells was more a matter of "inference" but admitted it was "plausible" that Pakistan showed the helicopter to others.
Pakistani officials contacted by the New York Times refused comment on the matter. The Financial Times said a Pakistani official denied the accusations.
Both newspapers noted that China and Pakistan enjoy a longstanding military relationship.
The raid that killed bin Laden, staged without informing Pakistan, stoked tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan.
In July, the U.S. said it was withholding $800 million in aid to Pakistan.
"They've taken some steps that have given us reason to pause on some of the aid which we're giving to the military, and we're trying to work through that," White House Chief of Staff William Daley said at the time.