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Inside the Ring

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Japan-China standoff

Tensions between China and Japan continue to rise even though Japan on Saturday released a Chinese fishing boat captain who was held for ramming his vessel into two Japanese coast guard ships near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

China recently deployed two armed patrol boats to waters near what it calls the Diaoyu Islands, and a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Tuesday that the "law-enforcement boats" were sent "to maintain fishing order and protect safety of life and property of Chinese fishermen."

"We hope Japan stop* tracking and disrupting Chinese fishery law-enforcement boats," spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.

Japan has made four diplomatic appeals to call off the patrols and has deployed six coast guard ships in the waters in the region.

The uninhabited islands are located south of Okinawa, which has administered the islands since the 1800s, not including the period when the U.S. military occupied Okinawa at the end of World War II.

China has demanded an apology from Japan for the detention of the fishing boat captain, and Tokyo has asked China to pay for repairs to the one coast guard ship that was damaged.

Beijing has claimed the incident that began Sept. 7 violates its sovereignty and asserted that Japan cannot enforce its laws near the Senkakus because the island chain belongs to China.

U.S. intelligence agencies have stepped up surveillance of the Senkakus and are closely monitoring the rising tensions over the dispute.

The strike group led by aircraft carrier USS George Washington is currently under way in waters close to the disputed islands and could move closer if shooting breaks out.

'Dangerous' lack of talks

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Wednesday that he regards it as "dangerous" that China's military is refusing to engage in talks with the Pentagon at a time when the Chinese military is very aggressive in waters along China's eastern and southeast territory.

Adm. Mullen said during a breakfast meeting hosted by the Christian Science Monitor that China's military is making a "tremendous investment" in naval forces and is "very aggressive in the waters off their east coast, South China Sea, East China Sea, even … in the waters in the Yellow Sea."

"A country has a right to build its defense capability tied to its national interests. I don't have any problem with that," Adm. Mullen said. "It's the kinds of capabilities that will prevent others, that prevent access, which is one of their overarching strategic objectives, as best I can tell, although sometimes it's difficult to see what their strategy is."

The four-star admiral said another worry is that "I can't sit down and talk to them about it, because I got no mil-to-mil relationships with them."

"I certainly don't have an expectation that I will sit down and have a conversation with them and we will agree on everything, but I think it's dangerous to not be able to discuss the issues even if we agree to disagree."

Defense CEOs network

As Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates initiates a major program to cut defense spending by trying to improve efficiencies, chief executive officers for midsized defense and intelligence contractors are meeting behind closed doors as part of a new business group called MissionLink.

The group was founded by local business executives and former defense and intelligence officials, key among them former National Security Agency Deputy Director Bill Crowell.

"MissionLink is an exclusive forum for CEOs of high-growth, mission-oriented defense and security companies to network with experienced large-company executives and former government leaders," Mr. Crowell told Inside the Ring. "The endgame is better collaboration and efficiency by providing these rising stars with the foundation for enhanced strategies for meeting their customers' and our nation's security goals."

The CEOs get together for closed-door meetings to discuss common problems, exchange ideas and network.

According to the group's mission statement, "leaders from growing national-security-focused companies have many lessons to learn and experiences to share."

"Some things can only best be understood by peers, not employees, investors or even co-founders," it says. "MissionLink's unique environment provides participants with exclusive opportunity; it's an easy and enjoyable way to learn quickly from peers and industry and government experts who have been there."

The latest seven-session program begins Oct. 5 with an intelligence brief and national-security market analysis, led by former Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England.

CEOs who take part are then invited to continue collaboration and sharing on a closed-access e-mail network.

East German artists

A group of eight former East German dissident artists are in Washington this weekend to mark the 20th anniversary of the unification of East and West Germany with an exhibition of their works.

The group includes several artists who were imprisoned by the Soviet satellite communist regime that fell after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, considered one of the pivotal events of the Cold War.

One artist, Thomas Klingenstein, was born in East Berlin in 1961 and took part in anti-regime art there before he was arrested and imprisoned by the Stasi secret political police in 1980.

"Whoever has lived under dictatorship knows that democracy cannot be taken for granted," Mr. Klingenstein said in a statement. "Perhaps dialogue and artwork can challenge young people to reflect upon the motives of individuals who engage themselves artistically or socially in the struggle for freedom?"

Another artist showing this weekend is Frank Rodel, who also was imprisoned by the East Germans. "I was not allowed to study in the German Democratic Republic and had to endure the complete loss of all personal freedoms, individual rights and dignity for more than three years while a political prisoner," he said.

"As a result of being completely stripped of my individuality and freedom, a counterreaction developed — the complete focus on art, which I see as the most individual of all lifestyles," he said. "The American way of life is, from the European point of view, the one that is the most intensely tied to the concept of freedom. For this reason, it has special meaning for me to display my paintings in the United States."

The exhibit is being hosted by Breakthrough Art Organization, a Washington group that promotes the work of artists who have overcome life's obstacles.

"Understanding the risks these artists took to freely express themselves allows us to appreciate our basic freedoms in a very tangible way," said Breakthrough Art founder Jeff Thinnes.

The exhibit, "Breakthrough! Twenty Years After German Unification," is free and open to the public from 12 noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery, 702 Eighth Street NW in Washington. The exhibit runs through Oct. 8.

Hunter's passion

Fresh from a private Pentagon briefing on Wednesday, Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, tells Inside the Ring that the command in Afghanistan has made great strides in defeating hidden bombs by doing something basic — watching the roads.

Mr. Hunter, who deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq as a Marine Corps officer, has been pushing the Pentagon to adopt in Afghanistan what is known as ODIN — observe, detect, identify, neutralize.

In recent months, it has done just that, setting up a special task force and sending in more surveillance aircraft and contractors to constantly watch the routes where Taliban insurgents hide deadly improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

"The best stuff is, they've really cut down on the IEDs in Regional Command-East, dramatically," Mr. Hunter told special correspondent Rowan Scarborough. "The reason is, it's mimicking Iraq in the way we were able to cut down on IEDs with the surge, plus the capability of task force ODIN, which is up and operation in RC-East."

Mr. Hunter's argument is that electronic assets like jammers and detection devices are fine, but the best tactic to stop IEDs is to watch the roads where they are planted and then kill or capture the enemy in the act.

He said the command is focusing ODIN tactics in the east because of its key economic and military routes that are favorite targets of the Taliban.

"Nobody knows they are having success doing this," he said.

The briefing was provided by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), which spends over $3 billion annually to counter the biggest killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The task force doing the ODIN mission in Afghanistan is called Falcon Strike. Since its recent surge, the JIEDDO office said, it has killed 43 enemy involved in IED placements. Falcon Strike has reduced IEDs along major eastern supply routes by almost 50 percent, it said, compared with a year ago.

It said an aerial detection device known as Ursus has found more than 400 IEDs the past 60 days.

Contact Bill Gertz at insidethering@washingtontimes.com.

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