China has agreed to provide Pakistan with 50 more fighter jets in a deal clinched during Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's trip to Beijing, Pakistani defense officials said Friday.
Gilani's four-day visit highlighted Pakistan's warm ties with China at a time of heightened tensions with Washington over the killing of Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town by American special forces.
Pakistan is seen as eager to show a demanding Washington that it has a strong diplomatic alternative in uncritical ally China.
Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar said Pakistan was seeking delivery within six months of the JF-17 Thunder jets, a single-engine multirole fighter developed in cooperation between China and Pakistan.
Mukhtar, who was in Beijing with Gilani, gave no details about financing, but put the price per plane at $20 million to $25 million, higher than many defense experts' estimates of $15 million.
China's Foreign Ministry said it had no information about the agreement and calls to the Defence Ministry rang unanswered.
The planes known as the FC-1 Xiaolong in China are offered for export as cost-efficient replacements for aging workhorses such as the MiG-21 and Northrop F-5 Tiger, defense experts say.
Pakistan's initial squadron of 14 was used alongside U.S.-made F-16s to bomb insurgent strongholds in South Waziristan in 2009, and its air force long was expected to procure more