Inside the Ring

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Lee denied being a spy and said he was targeted by the FBI because he is Chinese-American.

The FBI has said as recently as last year that it is still investigating the theft of U.S. nuclear secrets by China from the 1990s. But no one has been arrested for the crime since the Lee case.

U.S. counterintelligence in 1998 warned about China’s aggressive intelligence targeting of nuclear scientists. It stated that “rather than send its intelligence officers out to recruit knowledgeable sources at facilities such as the national laboratories, China prefers to exploit over time the natural scientist-to-scientist relationships.”

“Chinese scientists nurture relationships with national laboratory counterparts, issuing invitations for them to travel to laboratories and conferences in China,” the report on foreign spying against laboratories said.

Security officials say renewing the nuclear lab exchange also would reward China for massive cyberattacks against nuclear labs that have been ongoing for decades.

Energy Department spokesman Joshua McConaha said there currently is no nuclear initiative with China.

“There are periodic meetings to review our China activities, which currently cover a number of areas under our peaceful uses and science agreements,” he said, declining to discuss details of the meetings.

Chinese officials repeatedly have rejected U.S. calls for strategic nuclear talks, most recently in January during the visit there by then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

A 2008 State Department cable quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry official He Yafei as rejecting U.S. appeals for Chinese nuclear transparency, noting that openness “would eliminate the value of China’s strategic deterrent.”

Meanwhile, Chinese military support for U.S. enemies appears to be growing. According to an Iranian press report from Dec. 4, Chinese Maj. Gen. Zhang Zhaozhong said, “China will not hesitate to protect Iran even with a third World War.”


U.S. officials said there are some signs that North Korean and Chinese military forces went to a higher state of alert before and after Monday’s announcement of Kim Jong-il’s death Saturday.

Internet postings by people near the China-North Korea border reported that North Korean forces were placed on a high state of combat readiness Monday.

The reports also said China had placed the nearby Shenyang Military Region on a level-three war footing, based on concerns about instability in Pyongyang.

A third posting said China’s 40th Group Army and the 119th Mechanized Unit in Shenyang and 30th Division of the Chinese air force in Dandong were placed on their highest combat alert status. Military leave also reportedly was canceled for members of the North Sea Fleet amid concerns over border security.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon ( He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

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