China Defense Minister Liang Guanglie will visit the United States this week and is expected to face questioning on the presence of a Chinese-made mobile strategic-missile launcher that was spotted carrying a new North Korean long-range missile in Pyongyang on April 15.
Gen. Liang arrives Friday and will meet Monday at the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and other U.S. officials, Pentagon spokesman George Little told Inside the Ring. He noted that the visit is part of efforts to “foster closer military-to-military ties with China.”
Mr. Little would not say whether the discussions will include the controversial transfer by China of a long-range mobile missile launcher. But other officials said it is expected to be raised in at least some of Gen. Liang’s meetings in Washington.
On a related note, Rep. Michael R. Turner, chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces, issued at statement Tuesday calling on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner to raise the strategic missile proliferation during talks in Beijing this week.
“I expect that the very top of their agenda will be the apparent material support for North Korea’s road-mobile ballistic-missile program provided by state-owned Chinese firms and their subsidiaries,” the Ohio Republican said.
“Such support means that China is enabling North Korea to deploy road-mobile ballistic missiles, which could be tipped with nuclear warheads and aimed at the United States.”
He added that the cooperation “poses a direct threat to the security of the American people.”
Mr. Turner said the administration “must demand an immediate halt to such activity and a guarantee that China will end its support for the dictatorial [North Korean] regime in Pyongyang.”
Administration officials have sought to minimize the nuclear- missile launcher proliferation by claiming China’s government was not behind the transfer, even though the manufacturer is a state-owned company.
DIA TO STEP UP SPYING
The disclosure that the Pentagon is increasing efforts to conduct more aggressive human gathering of intelligence set off alarm bells among defense officials deployed for spying operations around the world, according to Pentagon sources.
News reports of the new effort were greeted with worry by some of the defense attaches posted at U.S. embassies that felt threatened by the publicity and were concerned about crackdowns by host governments.
A new directive on the Defense Clandestine Service was signed April 20, according to Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. James O. Gregory.
Col. Gregory told Inside the Ring he was not aware of the security worries among oversea defense officials.
The Defense Clandestine Service is not a new organization but is better described as a new initiative mainly within the Defense Intelligence Agency aimed at better integrating Pentagon spying efforts and to “enhance global coverage,” he said.
“The name is derived from the National Clandestine Service,” he said, referring to what used to be known within CIA as the Directorate of Operations.
The DIA during the 1990s created the Defense Humint Service that was later subsumed into the National Clandestine Service.
Col. Gregory said the initiative was the idea of Michael G. Vickers, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence.
One objective is to expand national and strategic intelligence gathering, as U.S. involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq winds down and the need for less tactical and operational intelligence declines.
Col. Gregory said the changes were “not necessarily” related to the Pentagon’s shift of focus toward Asia and the new Air Sea Battle concept, which is designed to better coordinate U.S. air and naval forces to defeat China’s anti-access weapons, such as anti-satellite arms, anti-ship ballistic missiles and cyberwarfare capabilities.
Other officials, however, said the new reorganization is an attempt to bolster intelligence-gathering mainly against China, as well as Iran - both locations where U.S. human spying is considered weak.
A senior State Department official in China on Wednesday refused to say whether the Obama administration issued what would have been an unusual apology to Beijing in order to end the dramatic standoff over case of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, the blind human rights activist who sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy and left the diplomatic sanctuary Wednesday.
There were conflicting reports about whether Mr. Chen left the embassy voluntarily or was pushed out after he sought help in fleeing the country.
Kurt M. Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, would not respond directly when asked about Chinese reports that Beijing had demanded an apology.
“Look, we underscored on several occasions to them both publicly and privately that this was an extraordinary circumstance with very unusual parameters and we dont expect it to be repeated,” Mr. Campbell said. “And I think we’re going to stand by that.”
He went on to say that the United States has made clear that the Obama administration wants a positive relationship with China.
“I think they accept that and understand our position,” he said.
Earlier, two State Department officials who briefed reporters on the case also declined to answer reporters’ repeated questions about whether the U.S. government apologized to China for Mr. Chen being allowed into the embassy amid threats by Chinese authorities against him and his family.
If the United States apologized for Mr. Chen’s flight to the embassy, Washington would undermine support for U.S. human rights efforts in the communist state.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin was quoted by the state-run Xinhua News Agency as saying Mr. Chen was “taken by the U.S. side” to the embassy “via abnormal means.”
“What the U.S. side has done has interfered in the domestic affairs of China, and the Chinese side will never accept it,” Mr. Liu said.
“The U.S. Embassy in Beijing has the obligation to observe relevant international laws and Chinese laws, and it should not do anything irrelevant to its function.”
CHINESE NUCLEAR DEMAND
China’s communist government this week publicly called for the United States and Russia to make further cuts in their nuclear arsenals.
The statement in Vienna comes at a time when U.S. officials say Beijing’s secrecy surrounding a large-scale nuclear arms build-up has never been greater.
Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye said in Vienna on Monday at a conference on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that the United States and Russia have the largest nuclear arsenals.
Washington and Moscow must “continue to make drastic reductions in their nuclear arsenals in a verifiable and irreversible manner,” he added.
U.S. officials say the Chinese call for nuclear cuts comes amid years of Chinese stonewalling on its current strategic nuclear modernization.
Officials said China refused a request from then-President George W. Bush in 2006 to hold nuclear talks, rejected an appeal in January 2011 from then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to hold nuclear talks, and has refused to disclose how many warheads are in its arsenal.
The Pentagon also has said China is the sole member of the U.N. Security Council that is still increasing the number of warheads in its arsenal. China also has rebuffed calls to join an international effort to cut off fissile material production.
Internal Chinese documents obtained by the Pentagon also suggest that Chinese leaders have a concerted strategy to conceal warhead numbers as part of efforts to force deeper cuts in U.S. warheads below those thought to be held by China.
The idea is that once those levels are reached, China would announce in 2020 that it is the world leader in both strategic nuclear power as well as economic power.
Michael Pillsbury, a former Reagan administration senior Pentagon policymaker, said the Chinese assertiveness in Vienna appears to be a sign of the growing debate in Beijing among communist and military leaders about whether to continue following dictum of the late leader Deng Xiaoping, who told China to “bide our time [and] build our capabilities” without provoking fears in the international community.
“There’s been a debate for two years now,” Mr. Pillsbury told Inside the Ring.
“It now appears that some in China are no longer following Deng’s policy of biding time and building capabilities.”