China’s most senior military intelligence official, a veteran of spy operations in Europe and cyberspace, recently made a secret visit to the United States and complained to the Pentagon about the press leak on the Chinese submarine that secretly shadowed the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier in 2006.
Maj. Gen. Yang Hui said senior Chinese leaders suspected the Pentagon deliberately disclosed the encounter as part of a U.S. effort to send a political message of displeasure to China’s military. The Song-class submarine surfaced undetected near the carrier, and Gen. Yang said the Chinese believed the leak was timed to coincide with the visit of a senior U.S. admiral.
Gen. Yang made the remarks during a military exchange visit in early September, according to two defense officials. The officials discussed the talks on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the contents of the private meetings.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman confirmed that Gen. Yang was hosted by Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr. but declined to provide details of the discussions. The visit included meetings at the DIA, Pentagon and State Department and within the intelligence community, he said, noting that Gen. Yang invited Gen. Burgess to visit China.
The U.S. visit by the senior spymaster was unusual. The Chinese service has been linked to two spy rings that operated against the United States, including the case of California defense contractor Chi Mak, who was sentenced to 24 years in prison last year for supplying China with military technology.
Chinese military intelligence also was behind the cases of two Pentagon officials recently convicted of spying. James W. Fondren Jr., a Pacific Command official, was convicted of espionage Sept. 25 for his role in supplying secrets as part of a spy ring directed by Tai Shen Kuo, a Taiwanese-born naturalized U.S. citizen who court papers said was an agent for Beijing. The second Pentagon official linked to the ring was Gregg Bergersen of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, who was convicted along with Kuo last year for supplying defense technology for China’s military.
Both that spy ring and the Chi Mak case were linked through a Chinese official in Guangzhou, identified in court papers as Pu Pei-liang, who worked as a researcher at the Chinese-militaryfunded Center for Asia Pacific Studies and received the defense secrets from the spies.
According to defense officials, Gen. Yang is an experienced clandestine operative who speaks English fluently and worked undercover in Europe.
Gen. Yang told U.S. officials during meetings that Chinese leaders were so angered by the disclosure of the Chinese submarine maneuver that they considered canceling the visit at the time by Adm. Gary Roughead, then-Pacific Fleet commander who has since been promoted to chief of naval operations.
The disclosure first appeared in The Washington Times and embarrassed Navy officials, who had to explain how defenses were breached against one of the military’s most important power projection capabilities.
Gen. Yang brought up the incident during talks in Washington and said his intelligence service, known in U.S. intelligence circles as 2PLA, carried out an investigation. He said the service informed senior Chinese communist leaders that they had determined that the press disclosure was not an officially sanctioned leak.
The Chinese Song-class diesel submarine surfaced near the Kitty Hawk on Oct. 26, 2006, and was spotted by one of the ship’s aircraft.
Current and former U.S. officials said Chinese intelligence cooperation, the reason for Gen. Yang’s visit, has been mixed, focusing mainly on large numbers of Chinese reports on Muslim Uighurs in western Xinjiang province. Some of them are linked to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda, but many are dissident Chinese Muslims seeking independence from communist rule.
Former State Department China affairs specialist John J. Tkacik Jr. said Gen. Yang is an expert in cyberwarfare and once headed the PLA’s electronic intelligence section.
“His success as a cyberwarrior led to his promotion from senior colonel to major general and chief of the PLA’s prestigious Second Department, which is not only responsible for military human intelligence collection, but also collates and analyzes allsource intelligence for the PLA,” Mr. Tkacik said.
“I have no doubt that he has been directing the Chinese military’s vast, industrial-vacuumcleaner cyber-intelligence campaign that has penetrated not just U.S. military computer systems, but just about every U.S. business, university and research institute’s computer systems as well.”
Mr. Tkacik said it is not clear why the Pentagon is seeking to increase transparency with Gen. Yang and his intelligence collectors. “They certainly aren’t going to reciprocate,” he said.
Larry M. Wortzel, a former military intelligence specialist, said he found his past liaison and exchange meetings with the 2PLA to be professional and productive. “I’m pleased the contacts are still going on,” he said.
“As for terrorism reports, the foreign, non-Chinese contacts I had as an attache in China convinced me that at that time, in the