- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 3, 2000

CIA Director George J. Tenet told Congress yesterday that growing tensions between China and Taiwan could lead to a regional military "flare-up" in the coming months.

"Although Beijing today still lacks the air- and sea-lift capability to invade Taiwan, China has been increasing the size and sophistication of its forces arrayed along the strait, most notably by deploying short-range ballistic missiles," Mr. Tenet said in testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Remarks last summer by Taiwan's president, Lee Teng-hui, about "state-to-state" relations with the mainland caused Chinese leaders to become "deeply worried" about the prospects of unifying the island with China, he said.

"Chinese leaders act as if they believe at a minimum a show of force is required if they are to preserve any hope of reunification," Mr. Tenet said. "Because of this, we see a high potential for yet another military flare-up across the Taiwan Strait this year."

China could use elections in Taiwan scheduled for March 18 as a "catalyst for these tensions," he said.

The testimony before the panel presented the U.S. intelligence communities' annual assessment of threats to the United States.

Mr. Tenet and two other intelligence officials also testified that:

* The threat of long-range missile attack against the United States is "steadily emerging."

Russia and China continue to have capabilities to "strike at military and civilian targets throughout the United States," Mr. Tenet said.

New missile threats are posed by North Korea, which is building two long-range missiles, as well as Iran and possibly Iraq.

* Pakistan and India "intensified" their rivalry with missiles and nuclear weapons and both states could conduct more underground nuclear testing. Both also are developing nuclear warfighting doctrines and planning.

* CIA efforts to monitor the spread of weapons of mass destruction and missiles is getting harder as rogue states hide their purchases.

* U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies have captured more than two dozen terrorists since July 1998 but terrorist attacks still could come with no warning.

* Kosovo is plagued by "chronic violence" since the U.S. bombing raids last year.

* Russia's future is uncertain and Russia could become "isolated, frustrated or hostile" toward the United States.

"This would increase the risk of unintended confrontation, which would be particularly dangerous as Russia increasingly relies on nuclear weapons for its defense, an emphasis reflected most recently in its new national security concept," Mr. Tenet said.

* Continuing problems in North Korea could lead to a "sudden radical and possibly dangerous change" at any time.

"[North Korean leader] Kim Jong-Il does not appear to have an effective long-term strategy for reversing his country's economic fortunes," Mr. Tenet said. "His inability to meet the basic needs of his people and reliance on coercion makes his regime more brittle because even minor instances of defiance have greater potential to snowball into wider anti-regime actions."

Mr. Tenet said China put on a "massive display" of military power at a Beijing parade marking the 50th anniversary of communist China's founding. However, Chinese leaders see a growing technological gap with the West, he said.

The rise of the Falun Gong religious sect and subsequent crackdown on the group are signs that the Communist Party's ability to attract Chinese people is in doubt, Mr. Tenet said.

Mr. Tenet also was questioned at length by Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican, about his handling of a security investigation into former CIA Director John Deutch.

The CIA director acknowledged that he did not notify the intelligence oversight committees of Congress about the security breach involving highly classified information improperly stored on Mr. Deutch's home computers.

"There's no excuse for that," Mr. Tenet said.

Because of secrecy rules, CIA directors have pledged to inform the congressional oversight committees immediately of any significant intelligence activities.

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