EX­PAND­ING CHINA MIL­I­TARY TIES

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

De­spite ten­sions over Chi­nese mil­i­tary cy­ber­at­tacks and desta­bi­liz­ing is­land-build­ing in the South China Sea, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is hop­ing to use the visit next week by Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping to ex­pand mil­i­tary ex­changes.

Pen­tagon of­fi­cials were hop­ing to con­clude an agree­ment in time for the sum­mit that would out­line so-called “rules of the road” for U.S.-China mil­i­tary air­craft en­coun­ters.

As of this week, how­ever, talks be­tween Pen­tagon and Chi­nese mil­i­tary of­fi­cials on min­i­miz­ing dan­gers dur­ing aerial en­coun­ters re­mained bogged down by Bei­jing’s de­mands that the U.S. mil­i­tary halt all sur­veil­lance flights near Chi­nese coasts. The Pen­tagon so far has re­fused to agree to the lim­its, ac­cord­ing to U.S. of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the sum­mit plan­ning.

A Chi­nese jet flew dan­ger­ously close to a U.S. P-8 sur­veil­lance jet in Au­gust 2014 over the South China Sea. The in­ci­dent trig­gered the ef­fort to re­duce the dan­gers of aerial in­ter­cepts. A U.S.China agree­ment on sea en­coun­ters has been reached, but an aerial ac­cord re­mains elu­sive.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion wants ex­panded mil­i­tary ex­changes with China to be a key “de­liv­er­able” for the Xi visit, de­spite the con­cerns over China’s cy­ber­hack­ing and is­land-build­ing. The sum­mit, like reg­u­lar talks known as the strate­gic and eco­nomic di­a­logue, is ex­pected to be strong on at­mo­spher­ics but short on sub­stance.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has pre­pared sanc­tions against China for its dam­ag­ing hack­ing op­er­a­tion against the Of­fice of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment net­works that com­pro­mised sen­si­tive per­son­nel in­for­ma­tion on some 22 mil­lion fed­eral work­ers. The sanc­tions will be an­nounced af­ter Mr. Xi’s visit.

The Chi­nese leader’s visit be­gins Septem­ber 25 and in­cludes a for­mal White House state din­ner, an event tra­di­tion­ally re­served for lead­ers of U.S. al­lies and friends. A White House state­ment said Mr. Xi’s visit will “present an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand U.S.-China co­op­er­a­tion on a range of global, re­gional, and bi­lat­eral is­sues of mu­tual in­ter­est.” The ar­eas were not spec­i­fied.

The state­ment also said the two lead­ers would “ad­dress ar­eas of dis­agree­ment con­struc­tively,” a hint at the com­ing sanc­tions over the OPM hack.

Sum­mit prepa­ra­tions have been un­der­way for weeks, with Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Su­san Rice and Daniel Rus­sel, as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for East Asian and Pa­cific af­fairs, mak­ing vis­its to Bei­jing.

A Chi­nese del­e­ga­tion vis­ited Washington last week and was led by Meng Jianzhu, sec­re­tary of the Com­mu­nist Party Cen­tral Po­lit­i­cal and Le­gal Af­fairs Com­mis­sion. Mr. Meng was told about U.S. plans for the im­pend­ing sanc­tions.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan for ex­panded U.S.-China mil­i­tary ties is a po­lit­i­cal slap at two key mem­bers of Congress who ear­lier this year called for scal­ing back or sus­pend­ing the mil­i­tary ex­changes over con­cerns they are boost­ing Chi­nese war-fight­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and re­ward­ing Bei­jing’s threat­en­ing be­hav­ior.

Rep. Randy J. Forbes, chair­man of the House Armed Ser­vices sub­com­mit­tee on sea power, has said the mil­i­tary ex­changes should be scaled back be­cause they are not im­prov­ing Chi­nese be­hav­ior.

“There is no in­di­ca­tion that more en­gage­ment has helped to shape Bei­jing’s ac­tion in a pos­i­tive di­rec­tion con­sis­tent with U.S. ob­jec­tives,” Mr. Forbes wrote to the Pen­tagon in De­cem­ber.

Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man John McCain in Fe­bru­ary told the Pen­tagon U.S. air­craft car­ri­ers should not be al­lowed to make port vis­its to China.

“Send­ing such a plat­form to China would be seen as an in­ter­na­tional dis­play of re­spect to China and its navy, de­spite Bei­jing’s re­cent record of ag­gres­sive be­hav­ior in the East and South China Seas,” the Ari­zona Repub­li­can wrote to Pen­tagon lead­ers, not­ing “China’s con­tin­ued use of co­er­cion to pur­sue its ter­ri­to­rial claims.”

The plan to ex­pand mil­i­tary ties ap­pears to be the latest ex­am­ple of an ad­min­is­tra­tion pol­icy of ig­nor­ing Congress’ se­cu­rity con­cerns about China.

Af­ter an­nounc­ing a planned cut of some 300,000 troops, China’s mil­i­tary is beef­ing up its naval and cy­ber­war­fare forces, ac­cord­ing to vet­eran China an­a­lyst Willy Lam.

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping an­nounced the troop cut dur­ing the Septem­ber 3 World War II com­mem­o­ra­tion as a pro­pa­ganda mea­sure de­signed to re­duce re­gional fears of grow­ing Chi­nese hege­mony.

Mr. Lam, writ­ing in the news­let­ter East-Asia-In­tel.com, said Bei­jing de­fense sources dis­closed plans to beef up naval forces by 50,000 troops by the end of the decade. The cur­rent force level is around 255,000, he said.

Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army troop re­duc­tions will be taken from aux­il­iary forces, such as med­i­cal, en­gi­neer­ing and en­ter­tain­ment units, he said.

China’s mil­i­tary strat­egy has placed a strong em­pha­sis on ex­pand­ing naval power with ships, sub­marines and mis­siles.

China is ex­pand­ing global naval de­ploy­ments. Five Chi­nese naval ves­sels made an un­prece­dented de­ploy­ment to the Bering Strait ear­lier this month timed to co­in­cide with Pres­i­dent Obama’s visit to Alaska. The war­ships came within 12 miles of the Alaska coast.

The pres­i­dent made no men­tion of the Chi­nese naval de­ploy­ment. In­stead, he warned of the dan­gers of melt­ing glaciers, which he at­trib­uted to global warm­ing.

Another key Chi­nese strate­gic weapon be­ing beefed up with ad­di­tional funds and per­son­nel is the se­cre­tive cy­ber­war­fare unit within the mil­i­tary.

“Pres­i­dent Xi, who chairs the [Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party’s] Cen­tral Lead­ing Group on Cy­berspace Af­fairs, has taken a per­sonal in­ter­est in en­hanc­ing China’s abil­ity to con­duct cy­ber­war­fare against coun­tries and re­gions in­clud­ing the United States and Tai­wan,” Mr. Lam stated.

Con­tact Bill Gertz on Twit­ter at @Bil­lGertz.

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