- - Wednesday, January 11, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

China gets high-tech space device

The U.S. government recently sold the Chinese a highly sophisticated imaging device used on space telescopes that can be used by China’s military for high-tech spying, according to a report in a Chinese newspaper.

The STA1600 high-resolution space telescope could be used by the Chinese military to track and lock onto enemy satellites and missiles, according to military analysts.

The sale of the equipment was disclosed in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post Jan. 3 and came as a surprise to many, including the Chinese themselves.

Liu Qiang, a Chinese government researcher, told the newspaper that “the U.S. government’s attitude [on this sale] is very uncertain, so when the shipment arrived in a box of equipment, we were very pleased.”

Resolution for high-end civilian imaging devices, such as digital cameras, is no more than 12 megapixels. The STA1600 imaging instrument obtained by the Chinese boasts 100 megapixels and was designed specifically for the U.S. Navy.

The Obama administration has been reforming U.S. export controls and seeking to loosen them on certain dual-use civilian-military products while saying it wants to tighten controls on exports of the most sensitive dual-use products.

China’s space program has taken big steps recently in the nation’s relentless quest for dominance in outer space. But one of the few areas where China lags behind the U.S. is in its inability to manufacture imaging devices that have the highest resolution. Exports of dual-use materials and products are subject to strict U.S. government restrictions. Such devices naturally fall into that category.

In the end, trade and election-year politics seem to have trumped national security concerns on the imaging gear. The Commerce and State departments jointly issued an export license to a California manufacturer, Semiconductor Technology Associates, that allowed the sale of the imaging device to China. Because China’s space program is run by the military, it appears almost certain that the device will be used by the Chinese military, which is increasing its space-intelligence capabilities.

War dogs reach 10,000

The People’s Liberation Army has one of the largest war-dog programs in the world. PLA authorities announced on Dec. 23 that the number of dogs trained for military purposes had reached 10,000.

War dogs have been used widely in the PLA for combat, patrol, mine-sweeping, intimidation, security, search-and-rescue and similar activities.

The PLA’s war-dog program started in 1950 under the guidance of the Soviet Red Army. Since 1991, the program has seen a great leap forward as China has intensified its grip on the border regions, especially restive Tibet and Xinjiang. The number of military units that use dogs has reached close to 5,000.

What if Mao’s son were not killed?

The Chinese government launched an all-out effort to mourn the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, and the Communist Party of China pledged swift and full support for Kim’s son as the new ruler. This has created an unexpected reaction on the Chinese Internet: popular cheering for the demise of the late Chinese dictator Mao Zedong’s oldest son, Mao Anying, even though the younger Mao has been dead for more than six decades.

Many online postings argued that if Mao’s son had not been killed in the Korean War while serving as a Russian interpreter, he would have been designated as Mao’s successor, as Kim Il-sung made son Kim Jong-il his successor and Kim Jong-il followed in designating his third son the new maximum leader.

“We should thank the country and its pilot that killed Mao Anying!” one blogger, named Roaring Zhurou, wrote on China’s Sina website, echoing thousands of similar comments.

Mao Anying was Mao’s oldest and favorite son, from the first of his three marriages. He was educated in Moscow, eventually reached the rank of major in the Soviet Army and participated in combat in Poland during World War II. He returned to Mao in the mid-1940s to become Mao’s Russian interpreter and personal liaison with Josef Stalin.

During the Korean War, the younger Mao served as the Russian interpreter at the Chinese headquarters in Korea. He was killed on Nov. 25, 1950, by a bomb dropped from an A-26 bomber flown by a South African air force pilot under the U.N command. He was buried in North Korea.

Miles Yu’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com.

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