- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A senior House Republican leader on Wednesday called for a review and strengthening of restrictions on Chinese military visits amid heightened concerns over visits by a Chinese military delegation to sensitive bases.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and chairwoman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, said she is very concerned that high-ranking Chinese military officials are being allowed access to sensitive U.S. military facilities as part of Pentagon efforts to re-establish U.S.-Chinese military-to-military relations.

“Congress must immediately review existing prohibitions against giving Chinese officials access to sensitive information and determine if they need to be strengthened,” Mrs. Ros-Lehten said in a statement.

The House leader commented in response to reports about the current U.S. visit by Gen. Chen Bingde, chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), whose spokesman said last week his visit would include stops at “sensitive” military sites after the Pentagon made “special arrangements” for the week-long visit to four bases.


It is the first high-level visit by Chinese generals and admirals since Beijing cut off military relations last year to protest U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

Gen. Chen told reporters at the Pentagon after meetings with senior defense officials on Wednesday that if the Pentagon goes ahead with additional arms sales to Taiwan, it would undermine U.S.-China military relations.

“My answer is affirmative. It will [be affected],” Gen. Chen said. “As to how bad the impact will be, it will depend on the nature of the weapons sold to Taiwan.”

The State Department has been delaying a sale of aircraft equipment to Taiwan needed to upgrade the island’s fleet of F-16 jets. Additional sales of newer F-16s also have been blocked by Obama administration officials.

In a speech at the National Defense University, Gen. Chen sought to play down China’s military buildup.

“Although China’s defense and military development has come a long way in recent years, a gaping gap between you and us remains,” he said, adding that “China never intends to challenge the U.S.”

On the military exchange program, Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said the visit by 24 PLA officers “raises a number of questions about the policies in place to safeguard U.S. national security-related information and the foreign policy implications of the administration’s response to Chinese actions against U.S. interests and allies.”

“The visit to Nellis Air Force Base is especially troubling, given its key role in our defenses against cyberwarfare and other high-tech threats,” she said.

China is actively engaged in cyber-attacks against the U.S., including massive assaults on U.S. government and civilian and defense networks, Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said.