Chinese al­lowed to view sen­si­tive U.S. mil­i­tary sites

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY BILL GERTZ

China’s top mil­i­tary leader and a group of of­fi­cers vis­ited sen­si­tive U.S. mil­i­tary bases last week, in ex­changes that de­fense and con­gres­sional of­fi­cials say run counter to a 2000 law de­signed to limit such ex­changes from bol­ster­ing Bei­jing’s arms buildup.

Chinese Gen. Chen Bingde, the mil­i­tary chief of staff, ar­rived in Wash­ing­ton on May 16 for the first high-level mil­i­tary ex­change since Bei­jing cut off mil­i­tary ties early last year to protest U.S. arms sales to Tai­wan.

One source of concern, ac­cord­ing to de­fense of­fi­cials, was Gen. Chen’s planned visit to Nel­lis Air Force Base in Ne­vada, where the mil­i­tary con­ducts reg­u­lar com­bat ex­er­cises, in­clud­ing one with cy­ber­war­fare el­e­ments known as “Red Flag.”

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can and chair­man of the House For­eign Af­fairs sub­com­mit­tee on in­ves­ti­ga­tions, said vis­its like those by Gen. Chen vi­o­late the lim­its set by Congress in a 2000 de­fense au­tho­riza­tion law when they in­volve ad­vanced U.S. weapons or mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties.

“We should not open to Chinese gen­er­als and ad­mi­rals ma­jor mil­i­tary bases like the Nor­folk Naval Sta­tion, the Army Na­tional Train­ing Cen­ter, and Nel­lis Air Force Base, where our fa­mous Red Flag air and cy­ber­war­fare ex­er­cises are held,” Mr. Rohrabacher said.

“The Peo­ple’s Repub­lic is not an al­lied, or even a friendly coun­try, and should not be given this kind of priv­i­leged ac­cess.”

The 24-mem­ber del­e­ga­tion in­cludes eight ad­mi­rals and gen­er­als, and four se­nior colonels.

Joint Staff spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby said in a state­ment that the visit was re­viewed for se­cu­rity and pol­icy is­sues by all U.S. gov­ern­ment agen­cies and de­part­ments in­volved in the visit. “The del­e­ga­tion is not stop­ping at any lo­ca­tion that has not been ap­pro­pri­ately cleared for this visit,” he said.

In an­other sign of thaw­ing mil­i­tary ties, the visit co­in­cided with a joint per­for­mance May 17 by the U.S. Army Band and Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army mil­i­tary band at Fort Myer in Vir­ginia.

An­other Joint Staff spokesman said Gen. Chen and sev­eral other high-rank­ing Chinese mil­i­tary of­fi­cials were re­ceived at an ar­rival cer­e­mony at Fort Myer ear­lier in the day. Gen. Chen was to meet De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates on May 18 at the Pen­tagon, and then gave a speech at the Na­tional De­fense Univer­sity, said Cmdr. Pa­trick McNally, the spokesman.

On May 19, the Chinese mil­i­tary vis­i­tors were to go to Nor­folk and board a Navy de­stroyer and see a Navy air wing be­fore trav­el­ing to Fort Ste­wart, Ga., to view sol­diers and forces of the Army’s 3rd In­fantry Divi­sion.

The del­e­ga­tion trav­eled May 19 to the Air Force war-fight­ing cen­ter at Nel­lis in the Ne­vada desert, where they saw air­craft and un­manned aerial ve­hi­cle dis­plays. The last stop on May 20 was to the Na­tional Train­ing Cen­ter at Fort Ir­win in Cal­i­for­nia.

Mr. Rohrabacher said he is con­cerned the Chinese will gain valu­able war-fight­ing knowl­edge from the visit that could be used against U.S. forces in any fu­ture con­flict. “These vis­its will not re­duce ten­sions aris­ing from Chinese ex­pan­sion,” he said. “The Bei­jing dic­ta­tor­ship will only see such ges­tures as signs of an ap­pease­ment pol­icy by the

John Tkacik, a for­mer State Depart­ment China spe­cial­ist, said the makeup of the vis­it­ing Chinese del­e­ga­tion in­cludes the Com­mu­nist Party con­trol of­fi­cer for nu­clear weapons, in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials and com­man­ders in charge of war-fight­ing against Tai­wan and Ja­pan. The lineup shows they “will be look­ing for in­tel­li­gence rel­e­vant to their com­mands,” he said.

Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

In the past, vis­it­ing Chinese mil­i­tary of­fi­cials have protested U.S. legal re­stric­tions dur­ing meet­ings with their Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts.

The re­stric­tions were passed in the 2000 Na­tional De­fense Au­tho­riza­tion Act (NDAA) af­ter an in­ci­dent in the late 1990s when a vis­it­ing Chinese mil­i­tary of­fi­cer learned through an ex­change the lo­ca­tion of a key vul­ner­a­bil­ity of U.S. air­craft car­ri­ers. Months later, U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies de­tected China’s pur- chase of guided tor­pe­does from Rus­sia that ap­peared linked to in­tel­li­gence gained by China from the visit.

The lim­its are var­i­ously called the De­Lay amend­ment af­ter for­mer Repub­li­can House Ma­jor­ity Whip Tom De­Lay of Texas, and the Smith guide­lines af­ter for­mer Sen. Bob Smith, New Hamp­shire Repub­li­can.

The law bans “in­ap­pro­pri­ate ex­po­sure” for Chinese mil­i­tary vis­i­tors to 12 cat­e­gories of data, in­clud­ing force pro­jec­tion and nu­clear op­er­a­tions; ad­vanced joint war­fare know-how; sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance op­er­a­tions; and mil­i­tary space op­er­a­tions.

Nel­lis is a cen­ter of Air Force space de­fense ac­tiv­i­ties, as well as cy­ber­war­fare train­ing.

China’s mil­i­tary is said by U.S. de­fense of­fi­cials to be among the most ag­gres­sive at de­vel­op­ing strate­gic cy­ber­war­fare ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

A Chinese De­fense Min­istry spokesman first dis­closed what he de­scribed as Gen. Chen’s plan to visit “sen­si­tive” mil­i­tary facil- ities, in­clud­ing Nel­lis, ac­cord­ing to Chinese state-run me­dia. The spokesman said un­spec­i­fied “spe­cial ar­range­ments” were made with the Pen­tagon for the trip.

The Se­nate aide said the De­Lay amend­ment does not per­mit any spe­cial ar­range­ments. “A care­ful read­ing of the De­Lay amend­ment ought to dic­tate more cau­tion than the Chen itin­er­ary ap­pears to demon­strate,” the aide said.

A se­nior House Repub­li­can aide also ques­tioned the pro­pri- ety of the visit.

“In their ea­ger­ness to re­store mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary re­la­tions with China, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion needs to take care not to vi­o­late the re­stric­tions on such ex­changes that are clearly set forth” specif­i­cally for the Chinese mil­i­tary in the 2000 law, said the House aide.

“Chinese mil­i­tary writ­ings de­scribe the U.S. as an en­emy, and we should bear that in mind even dur­ing the most friendly ex­changes.”

John Tkacik, a for­mer State Depart­ment China spe­cial­ist, said the makeup of the vis­it­ing Chinese del­e­ga­tion in­cludes the Com­mu­nist Party con­trol of­fi­cer for nu­clear weapons, in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials and com­man­ders in charge of war-fight­ing against Tai­wan and Ja­pan. The lineup shows they “will be look­ing for in­tel­li­gence rel­e­vant to their com­mands,” he said.

“I don’t think the Pen­tagon fel­lows who planned Gen. Chen’s itin­er­ary were obliv­i­ous to the coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence chal­lenges that the visit poses,” Mr. Tkacik said. “But if it were me, I’d con­fine our Chinese guests to truly cer­e­mo­nial ac­tiv­i­ties at in­stal­la­tions that don’t even present a near oc­ca­sion for in­tel­li­gence­gath­er­ing.”

The Chinese De­fense min­istry spokesman, Huang Xueping, told Xin­hua that Gen. Chen’s visit would be a new be­gin­ning aimed at “ad­vanc­ing a new type of China-U.S. mil­i­tary re­la­tions built on mu­tual re­spect, co­op­er­a­tion and mu­tual ben­e­fits.”

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and its pre­de­ces­sors have sought since the early 1990s to build trust with China’s mil­i­tary, but so far those ef­forts have fallen short.

Dur­ing sev­eral mil­i­tary en­coun­ters be­tween U.S. and Chinese forces over the past decade, Chinese mil­i­tary lead­ers could not be reached by se­nior U.S. of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing dur­ing the 2001 in­ci­dent in­volv­ing a midair col­li­sion be­tween a Chinese jet and U.S. EP-3 sur­veil­lance air­craft, and more re­cent ha­rass­ment by Chinese ships of U.S. sur­veil­lance ves­sels.

ASSOCIATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Adm. Ti­mothy Keat­ing, U.S. com­man­der in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, shakes hands with Chinese Gen. Chen Bingde upon ar­rival at the Ba Yi Build­ing in Bei­jing in 2008. Gen. Chen, the mil­i­tar y chief of staff, ar­rived in Wash­ing­ton on May 16 for the first high-level mil­i­tar y ex­change since Bei­jing cut off mil­i­tar y ties early last year to protest U.S. arms sales to Tai­wan.

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