The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is building its electronic eavesdropping capabilities in western China. Pentagon intelligence analysts say the expansion of listening posts at two sites was photographed in late December and early January by U.S. reconnaissance satellites. The buildup is one of the more clandestine aspects of China’s steadily increasing military power.
According to a Defense Intelligence Agency report, cameras aboard a National Reconnaissance Office satellite photographed the addition of several new parabolic dish antennas. They were added to the large antenna field at the Dingyuanchen listening post aimed at the Russian border.
The facility is operated by the PLA’s 8th Bureau of the General Staff 3rd Department, the unit in charge of intercepting electronic communications from the former Soviet Union. China is particularly interested in listening in on all communications from the Central Asian states. They are suspected of secretly backing Muslim Uighur separatists in restive Xingjiang province.
A second electronic spying post also received a new electronic ear. The United States photographed a new parabolic dish antenna at the PLA military facility at Changi. That listening post is operated by the 3rd Department’s 12th Bureau. It is responsible for identifying and tracking foreign satellites namely, U.S. military satellites.
The satellite tracking facility is a key element of China’s growing anti-satellite weapons program. The PLA knows that the Achilles heel of the U.S. military is its vast network of communications and intelligence satellites. The network is key to conducting worldwide military operations.
China, according to Pentagon officials, is working furiously on ground-based laser weapons that could knock out satellites, using relatively low-power beams of energy. The Chinese conducted one test Sept. 30, pointing a laser at infrared satellite sensors.
Kosovo close call
U.S. Army soldiers came perilously close to shooting protesters in Kosovo after Serb residents attacked them with tree limbs and rocks.
Kosovar Serbs have taunted and pelted American peacekeepers on several occasions. So far, the soldiers, many of them untrained in civil-disturbance control, have kept their cool.
Their grace under fire was severely tested last month in the town of Cernica, according to a memo by an Army captain who is a military policeman.
U.N. forces arrested a Serb man for having two grenades. But when they tried to take him to police headquarters, rioting erupted.
Here’s how the MP tells the story:
“Word got through the village that the guy was taken and the entire village went out into the street, erected a barricade and as the squad came out they were pelted with rocks and debris. I got on the [helicopter] flight believing that this was one of the typical crowds forming that we would fly in, show force and we’d be out of there pretty quick.
“Instead it turned into a slugfest within two minutes of getting off the bird… . As we moved in, people were hitting us with sticks… . As we moved in, the road was too narrow and the people were all over, so we moved in single file until we got by the first barricade and got our people on line.
“By the time of the linkup, I was punched in the face, hit with a stick and got into a wrestling match with a guy that was trying to attack the dog handler from behind.
“Another guy was just about to hit me in the side of the head with a huge tree limb. Luckily, my other security guy … came out of nowhere and gave him a flying kick to the groin, saving the side of my head.
“After getting hit in the head by a large rock and getting smashed across the back with a tree limb, I gave the order for the soldiers to open fire with nonlethal munitions. This worked pretty well, clearing the crowd back initially.
“But after one Serb swung a tree limb that knocked down a soldier,” the memo writer “took out my 9 mm with the intent of shooting the guy. However, as I was getting my 9 mm out, a medic from the 212th already had his 9 mm out and he fired several warning shots. The guys cleared out.”
Missile defense react
The National Intelligence Council, a CIA-based group that produces intelligence assessments for policy-makers, is working on a top-secret analysis of foreign reactions to deployment of a national missile defense.
Judging by the public statements coming from Beijing, Moscow and European capitals, the National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, will likely be used by critics of missile defenses.
Robert Walpole, the national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs, has a reputation for fairness. He talked about some aspects of the secret estimate earlier this week at U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville, Ala.
One NIE topic: the prospect Russia and China might step up exports of missile technology so rogue nations could defeat the limited U.S. nationwide system. The system comprises interceptors, radars, communications networks and satellite sensors.
China, in particular, has extensive knowledge of such missile defense “countermeasures.” For years, one of its main strategic nuclear targets was Moscow site of the world’s only deployed defense against long-range missiles.
Countermeasures can include adding decoy warheads to fool sensors, adding warheads to overwhelm defenses or using low-observable technology. A country could also send missiles on depressed trajectories that make tracking more difficult.
The Russians recently flight-tested one of their new Topol M missiles with a short-burn engine firing to avoid detection.
Mr. Walpole said if China or Russia decided to sell the countermeasures technology to states such as North Korea, Iran or Iraq the key emerging long-range missile states it would cause real problems for U.S. missile defenses.
China also could decide to increase the size of its relatively small strategic nuclear missile force. The force already is growing more survivable with the addition of two new road-mobile missiles, the DF-31 and DF-41, and a new submarine-launched nuclear missile.
The current Chinese nuclear force includes about 24 CSS-4 missiles, most of which are targeted against U.S. cities. A boost in the Chinese nuclear missile arsenal could cause India to do likewise. Archrival Pakistan then might feel compelled to join the arms race.
Either way, the NIE on foreign reactions to national missile defense is likely to stir controversy because of the highly politicized debate over the issue.
The estimate, according to Mr. Walpole, will be finished sometime this summer in time for President Clinton’s deployment decision. An unclassified version, he said, is unlikely. Keeping the study under wraps will no doubt be applauded by missile defense boosters and decried by its critics.
Happy birthday, Army
Gen. Eric Shinseki, Army chief of staff, and his vice chief, Gen. John Keane, have more to worry about than funding a $60 billion overhaul of all combat divisions. There’s also a 225th birthday ball to plan.
Sources tell us the two four-star generals have made the following decisions on the June 16 gala at the Washington Hilton:
Other service chiefs and secretaries will not be invited.
Members of Congress will be invited.
No guest speaker.
The U.S. Army Band must play snappy music to coax soldiers and dates onto the dance floor. No old fuddy-duddy tunes.
Order a cake.
Make event as inexpensive as possible so a maximum number of soldiers may attend.