Inside the Ring

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Mr. Gates told reporters at the Great Wall that the Chinese discussed their nuclear strategy and “no-first-use” policy of not being the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict. The policy in recent years has been called into question by a Chinese general who has said China would use its nuclear forces against the United States if U.S. long-range, conventional cruise missiles were fired against China in a conflict.

During the visit to the nuclear headquarters, Mr. Gates said he invited Gen. Jing Zhiyuan, 2nd Artillery commander, to visit the U.S. Strategic Command headquarters near Omaha, Neb.

However, the elusive Gen. Jing has been invited several times in the past for such visits, including a direct appeal in 2006 from then-President George W. Bush to visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao, but so far has not made the trip.

Defense officials have said Gen. Jing’s refusal to visit is a reflection of tight Chinese military secrecy related to nuclear weapons, which are hidden in underground facilities, mainly in western China.

The missile headquarters is located in Qinqhe, west of Beijing, and was last visited by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in 2005. Pentagon officials said they pressed China to allow Mr. Gates in the headquarters as the minimum to test China’s sincerity in restarting military exchanges and promising greater openness.

China has an estimated 200 nuclear weapons and is in the midst of a major strategic-forces buildup.

On Monday, Mr. Gates proposed that China’s military hold strategic nuclear talks as well as talks on missile defense, space and cyberwarfare. China rebuffed the proposal, saying it would study and consider it.

China intel failure

The House and Senate intelligence oversight committees were alerted this week to a potential new controversy over whether U.S. intelligence agencies failed to properly assess the development of China’s new J-20 stealth jet.

A J-20 prototype had its first flight test on Tuesday, and a week earlier, the head of the Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence, ViceAdm. David J. Dorsett, told reporters the speed of the development had been underestimated.

On Sunday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said China’s development of the stealth jet was known, but “what we’ve seen is that they may be somewhat further ahead in the development of that aircraft than our intelligence had earlier predicted.”

The issue is significant because in July 2009, Mr. Gates canceled further production of the world’s only fifth-generation fighter, the Air Force F-22, because China was “projected to have no fifth-generation aircraft by 2020” and would have only a “handful” by 2025, compared to about 1,700 less capable U.S. F-35s.

A Jan. 10, 2006, memorandum from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on reporting to Congress lists “significant intelligence failures” as those likely to have a serious impact on U.S. national security interests.

Intelligence agencies must report to Congress failures that include “a conclusion that an intelligence product is the result of foreign deception or denial activity, or otherwise contains major errors in analysis, with a significant impact on U.S. national security policies, programs, or activities.”

Spokesmen for the Senate and House intelligence oversight committees had no immediate comment.

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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.

Mr. ...

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