The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

China dis­patched five war­ships to the dis­puted Senkaku is­lands last week in the lat­est show of force, as part of its dis­pute with Ja­pan over con­trol of the un­in­hab­ited is­lands.

U.S. of­fi­cials said the Chi­nese naval in­cur­sion Oct. 23 was part of stepped up saber-rat­tling by Bei­jing in the year since Tokyo pur­chased three of the five is­lands from pri­vate own­ers on Oct. 11, 2012.

The Chi­nese navy last week sent some of its most mod­ern war­ships, in­clud­ing two Luzhou-class mis­sile de­stroy­ers and three Jiangkai II-class frigates, to the is­lands.

U.S. Navy of­fi­cials were less con­cerned about pre­vi­ous in­cur­sions be­cause they were car­ried out by un­armed or lightly armed mar­itime sur­veil­lance ships.

The lat­est dis­patch of front-line war­ships rep­re­sents an es­ca­la­tion of pres­sure by China and a sign Bei­jing is step­ping up claims to the is­lands that are be­lieved to con­tain large un­der­sea re­serves of gas and oil.

Ac­cord­ing to U.S. of­fi­cials, in the past year, Chi­nese ships have made 322 mar­itime in­cur­sions in both ter­ri­to­rial Senkaku waters and nearby seas.

The pre­vi­ous year the num­ber of sim­i­lar in­cur­sions was 17.

Other new mil­i­tary de­vel­op­ments in­cluded China’s first air­craft vi­o­la­tion of Senkaku airspace in De­cem­ber 2012, and three drone sur­veil­lance flights near the is­lands.

One of the most sig­nif­i­cant in­ci­dents took place Sept. 8 when two Chi­nese H-6 strate­gic nu­clear bombers flew through the Miyako Strait, lo­cated south of Ja­pan’s Ok­i­nawa pre­fec­ture and near the Senkakus. It was the sec­ond time Chi­nese air­craft made a provoca­tive flight through the strait and fol­lowed ear­lier war­ship pas­sages through those waters.

In the past year, Ja­panese jet fight­ers were scram­bled 386 times to in­ter­cept Chi­nese air­craft, com­pared to 142 in­ter­cepts the pre­vi­ous year.

The stepped up mil­i­tary in­cur­sions are a sign Bei­jing is at­tempt­ing to so­lid­ify its ter­ri­to­rial claims to the is­lands it calls Diaoyou, a U.S. of­fi­cial said. on Euro­pean lead­ers are likely to in­crease pres­sure on Pres­i­dent Obama to fur­ther curb NSA mon­i­tor­ing.

In Au­gust, the pres­i­dent di­rected a panel of spe­cial­ists — known as the Re­view Group on In­tel­li­gence and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Tech­nolo­gies — to study how elec­tronic spy­ing pro­tects na­tional se­cu­rity, ad­vances for­eign pol­icy and re­spects civil lib­er­ties.

The group will present its re­port to the pres­i­dent in two months.

NSA Di­rec­tor Keith B. Alexan­der on Tues­day made an im­pas­sioned ap­peal for con­tin­ued NSA spy­ing that he said is vi­tal for pro­tect­ing against ter­ror­ist at­tacks and other threats.

The agency is hav­ing a “tough time” in terms of pub­lic trust as a re­sult of Mr. Snow­den’s on­go­ing dis­clo­sures through reporter Glenn Green­wald of Bri­tain’s Guardian news­pa­per and oth­ers, many of them mis­lead­ing and in­ac­cu­rate.

“When we get to­gether, we don’t whine,” Gen. Alexan­der said. “Well, maybe a cou­ple of times we whined. But we ac­tu­ally say it is much more im­por­tant for this coun­try that we de­fend this na­tion and take the beat­ings than it is to give up a pro­gram that would re­sult in this na­tion be­ing attacked.”

NSA has 6,000 peo­ple de­ployed around the world, and 20 were killed in sup­port of mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the war on ter­ror­ism, he said.

Glob­ally, coun­tert­er­ror­ism ca­su­al­ties con­tinue to climb, Gen. Alexan­der said, with 2012 pro­duc­ing the high­est toll with more than 15,000 peo­ple killed.

In Oc­to­ber alone, 2,336 peo­ple were killed in at­tacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pak­istan, Nige­ria and Syria.

“And yet, there has not been a mass ca­su­alty here in the U.S. since 2001,” he said of the ter­ror­ist at­tacks on the World Trade Center and the Pen­tagon.

“That’s not by luck. They didn’t stop hat­ing us; they didn’t say that they were go­ing to just for­give this. They con­tinue to try. It is the great mem­bers in the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity, our mil­i­tary, our law en­force­ment that have stood up and said, ‘This is our job and we do it with our part­ners and our al­lies.’ And it has been a great part­ner­ship.”

The four-star gen­eral, who has an­nounced he is re­tir­ing af­ter eight years at NSA, said de­fend­ing the spy­ing pro­grams be­fore Congress is bet­ter than “hav­ing given them up and have our na­tion or our al­lies be attacked and peo­ple killed.”

Stewart A. Baker, for­mer NSA gen­eral coun­sel, who tes­ti­fied later Wed­nes­day was more blunt. In writ­ten tes­ti­mony, he de­nounced the anti-U.S. cam­paign to limit spy­ing that he called “the great­est threat to the coun­try’s se­cu­rity.”

“That is the cur­rent cam­paign by Glenn Green­wald and oth­ers who con­trol the Snow­den doc­u­ments to cause the great­est dam­age to the United States and its in­tel­li­gence ca­pa­bil­i­ties,” Mr. Baker said.

The dis­clo­sures put the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in “a de­fen­sive crouch” as for­eign gov­ern­ments de­mand con­ces­sions on U.S. spy­ing that are be­ing con­sid­ered by the White House.

Mr. Baker said “Pres­i­dent Obama seems gen­uinely em­bar­rassed and un­will­ing to de­fend the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency.”

The Euro­pean outcry over U.S. spy­ing on its lead­ers is “hypocrisy,” he added.

France is en­gaged in large-scale in­ter­na­tional mon­i­tor­ing, and Ger­man leader An­gela Merkel mildly spoke out against China for pen­e­trat­ing her com­puter but took greater is­sue with re­ported NSA in­ter­cepts of her cell­phone.

“There were no calls for sanc­tions or agree­ments to put an end to China’s no­to­ri­ous hack­ing cam­paign,” Mr. Baker said.

“Do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional forces are push­ing the United States to­ward a new un­der­stand­ing of how to gov­ern our in­tel­li­gence ca­pa­bil­i­ties,” Mr. Baker said.

“If we make the wrong de­ci­sions in the next few months, our in­tel­li­gence ca­pa­bil­i­ties may be hand­i­capped for a gen­er­a­tion — or un­til some dis­as­ter re­veals our er­rors in stark relief.”

Bill Gertz can be reached at @Bil­lGertz.

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