- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2007

HONOLULU — Senior military commanders at the U.S. Pacific Command here said China’s recent test of an anti-satellite weapon and increased computer-hacking activities prompted increased defenses for U.S. forces in the region and in space.

“U.S. space capabilities are an asymmetric advantage that we have to maintain,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.

“There has been significant discussion and activity to assess the impact of [the anti-satellite test] and other [Chinese] space developments, and how to protect our extraordinarily important space capability,” he said in an interview at the command’s headquarters at Camp H.M. Smith.

Pentagon officials have said Chinese military hackers in recent months carried out computer-based attacks on Pentagon and U.S. military and civilian government computer networks, as well as on foreign government networks.

Without naming China, Gen. Leaf said the problem of computer attacks is growing.

“We’re very concerned about that — for the information that may be contained on [the networks] or for the activities we conduct that are command and control and situational awareness related.”

Details of recent computer attacks, including those on Pacific Command networks, are classified, Gen. Leaf said. But the issue was raised in meetings with Chinese military officials.

“We expect actions that are consistent with the professed desire for a peaceful, responsible rise of China as a more significant player on the Pacific and world stage,” he said.

Chinese military computer attacks “would not be consistent” with Beijing’s claim to be a peaceful rising power, he said.

Air Force Gen. Paul Hester, commander of U.S. air forces in the Pacific, said in a separate interview that China’s anti-satellite weapons and computer hacking are being watched closely.

“Cyber is a place where we are growing to learn where the dangers are,” he said in his office at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.

Of the January anti-satellite weapons test by China, Gen. Hester said, “This new, out-of-the-blue test by China was certainly not expected. Does it change the equation? Absolutely. They’ve demonstrated the capability.”

Gen. Hester said he is concerned that such anti-satellite weapons could be used to disrupt U.S. military communications with commanders in Japan and South Korea.

“We are focused intently on that to make sure that the assurance of satellites and the protection of satellites is robust,” he said.

Gen. Leaf also discussed the Pentagon’s new “hedge” strategy of continuing to engage Beijing but preparing for a war if China turns hostile in the future.

“If there is a significant military capability in the region and the Chinese have a significant military capability, we cannot allow that or any other military capability to outstrip us to the point where we’re not effective,” Gen. Leaf said.

U.S. forces in the Pacific are undergoing a restructuring that includes more ships, submarines and bombers at bases at Guam and Hawaii; larger military exercises; and closer alliances.

Gen. Leaf said the force restructuring will produce more powerful and flexible military forces that also could be used in conflicts in the Taiwan Strait or on the Korean Peninsula, adding that “this region demands that flexibility.”

Gen. Leaf said the Pentagon’s military-exchange program with China “has not been everything we hoped.”

“But we still have found significant value from it in the simple regard of building some relationships that will reduce the potential misunderstanding,” he said.

Gen. Hester also said the risk of a Chinese miscalculation leading to war is a concern.

Just as NATO military exercises during the Cold War were meant as a signal of strength to the Soviet Union, “from our relationship over here, we want to make sure no one miscalculates” by underestimating U.S. military strength, Gen. Hester said.

Chinese military visitors have been shown briefings on U.S. and allied exercises and the capabilities of the B-2 bombers to help show them who we are,” Gen. Hester said.

One element of the Pentagon’s China hedge strategy is to develop a long-range strike bomber that could be used to hit targets deep inside China.

Gen. Hester said Pacific Air Forces need the bomber, which could be developed and deployed by 2018.

“If, in the most egregious part of our business, which is where you shoot at people, or drop bombs on people in anger, then clearly being able to carry large payloads, long distances to strike targets in the Pacific is very important to me,” he said.

Gen. Leaf said the Pacific Command is working very hard to “prevent a conflict in the Taiwan Strait” through helping Taiwan bolster its military forces.

“In my estimation, Taiwan has, in fact, done reasonably well in enhancing their defensive posture” in the past two years, Gen. Leaf said.

Tensions will remain between China and Taiwan until the dispute over Taiwan’s status is resolved. China considers Taiwan, formally known as the Republic of China, a breakaway province.

“And I’m not willing to speculate when that will come so for now they need [a] properly prepared defensive posture,” Gen. Leaf said.

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