Ben Carson is clarifying his recent comments about China’s involvement in the conflict in Syria, emphasizing that Beijing is providing material support after facing criticism for implying it had forces on the ground.
“China has had longstanding and well-documented security ties to Syria, and has provided various military weapons and equipment that Syria is using in the current conflict,” a memo released Friday morning by Carson’s presidential campaign says. [READ FULL MEMO BELOW]
Carson mentioned China’s presence in Syria during Tuesday’s GOP primary debate when asked about White House policy in the region.
“We also must recognize that it's a very complex place,” Carson said. “You know, the Chinese are there, as well as the Russians, and you have all kinds of factions there.”
Friday's memo goes on to cite various websites — including academic research, international news agencies and a blog focusing on China’s military — that claim that China has “regularly sold missiles, missile technology and missile components to Syria, despite U.S. objections” and is one of Syria’s top conventional weapons suppliers.
The campaign also included an article written in an open-source publication that goes into depth about the purported use of Chinese radar in Syria. The LinkedIn profile for the author, Sean O’Connor, says he served as an intelligence analyst with the Air Force and is now an imagery analyst for the military magazine IHS Jane’s.
Carson's comments drew questions from critics about whether the political neophyte has the requisite foreign policy experience to serve as commander in chief.
His adviser, Armstrong Williams, doubled down on the remarks on Wednesday during an interview on MSNBC, in which he said that “it has been told to him many times over and over, that the Chinese are there” in reference to Syria.
That prompted the White House to swat down those accusations on Thursday, mostly focusing on the prospect of direct Chinese involvement in Syria from which Carson’s campaign has distanced itself.
National Security Adviser Susan Rice told reporters that she has “not seen any evidence of Chinese military involvement in Syria,” while her deputy, Ben Rhodes, said that “China makes it a practice to not get extended into military conflicts in the Middle East.”
And on Friday, President Obama said Carson "doesn't know much about" the fight against ISIS.