China intelligence gaps
The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific says he is concerned about the lack of strategic information available on China’s military forces despite U.S. spy agencies identifying Beijing’s military as a key collection target.
“There are more gaps than I’d like to discuss here,” Adm. Timothy J. Keating, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told reporters in Hong Kong on Feb. 18.
Adm. Keating went on to identify key Chinese military developments that are a concern, including a submarine buildup, “area denial” weapons, such as using long-range ballistic missiles to target aircraft carriers; antisatellite weapons and cyberwarfare efforts.
The comments on intelligence gaps highlight a long-standing problem of lack of information on China’s military and intentions.
For example, in 2001, a 12member commission of experts from outside the government, headed by retired Army Gen. John H. Tilelli Jr., found that U.S. intelligence on China’s military was flawed.
Also, the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment in December 2000 warned that the Pentagon could not predict the outcome of a conflict between China and Taiwan because of intelligence gaps.
The late Peter W. Rodman, an assistant defense secretary, told reporters in 2006 that there were “gaps” in U.S. intelligence on China that caused surprises in the past, such as the new Yuanclass submarine that was unknown to U.S. intelligence until a photo of it was published in 2004.
Chinese Col. Chen Zhou stated in an exchange with Chinese bloggers Feb. 19 that a recent white paper sought to “handle well the relationship between transparency and confidentiality.” He stated that “increasing military transparency serves to increase mutual trust among countries. But transparency is relative; it must not affect the interest of national security.”
A U.S. defense official said the intelligence gaps on China have persisted for more than a decade. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of intelligence shortfalls. He blamed the gaps in part on limited U.S. human intelligence and electronic spying.
An intelligence spokesman had no immediate comment.
Adm. Keating said China’s recently released annual defense white paper failed to address U.S. concerns about the Chinese military buildup.
“We do not think it is as forthcoming as the Chinese think it is,” he said. “We want to understand why they feel compelled to develop underwater capabilities to the extent that they are. We’d like to have a better understanding of their notion of area-denial weapon technology. We’d like to know better why they are concentrating in certain areas of space operations. We’d like to understand more fully their cyberwarfare technology and intentions.”
The Chinese arms developments are known, but there are areas “where their stated intentions don’t appear to us to align with their obvious developments that we see,” he said.
“Transparency involves a certain insight or ability to see. We want an ability to understand and not just to see the weapons that they are developing.”
Adm. Keating said his command is “very carefully” watching China’s buildup of both nuclear-missile and attack submarines as well as diesel submarines, which number about 65 and are increasing their patrols farther from Chinese coasts.
He defended a security failure in 2006 when the aircraft carrier battle group led by the USS Kitty Hawk allowed a Chinese submarine to sail undetected within torpedo range of the ship.
“No danger presented to either,” he said. “The carrier was in a very relaxed posture. If there were some heightened state of tension, we would, believe me, we would not let them get that close. But we are watching the submarine technology very carefully. We want them to understand that there are rules of the road, both figurative and literal, and it is very much in their best interest to observe and operate by those rules of the road.”
China’s military has rebuffed repeated efforts by Pacific Com- mand and the Pentagon to reach a maritime agreement on naval operating rules.
The Chinese Embassy declined comment.
Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command
Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff