China may have examined US stealth chopper: Report

WASHINGTON - Pakistan's intelligence service probably let Chinese military engineers examine the wreckage of a supersecret US stealth helicopter that crashed during the May raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, The New York Times reported late Sunday.

Citing unnamed officials familiar with the matter, the newspaper said that US intelligence agencies had concluded that it was likely that Chinese engineers - at the invitation of Pakistani intelligence operatives - had taken detailed photographs of the severed tail of the Black Hawk helicopter equipped with classified technology designed to elude radar.

Relations between the United States and Pakistan have been under strain following the raid that killed bin Laden, who was found living near Pakistan's main military academy.

President Barack Obama's administration recently suspended about one-third of its US$2.7 billion (S$3.2 billion) annual defense aid to Pakistan, but assured Islamabad it was committed to a US$7.5 billion civilian assistance package approved in 2009.

US Navy Seals that conducted the raid tried to destroy the helicopter after it crashed at bin Laden's compound, but the tail section of the aircraft remained largely intact, the report said.

The US officials cautioned that they did not have definitive proof that the Chinese visited to Abbottabad, and they said that Pakistani officials denied showing the advanced helicopter technology to any other foreign government.

The US case is based mostly on intercepted conversations, in which Pakistani officials discussed inviting the Chinese to the crash site, The Times noted.

One official told the newspaper that intelligence officials were "certain" that Chinese engineers had been able to photograph the helicopter and even walk away with samples of the wreckage.