- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 8, 2009

China’s most senior military intelligence official, a veteran of spy operations in Europe and cyberspace, recently made a secret visit to the United States and complained to the Pentagon about the press leak on the Chinese submarine that secretly shadowed the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier in 2006.

Maj. Gen. Yang Hui said senior Chinese leaders suspected the Pentagon deliberately disclosed the encounter as part of a U.S. effort to send a political message of displeasure to China’s military. The Song-class submarine surfaced undetected near the carrier, and Gen. Yang said the Chinese believed the leak was timed to coincide with the visit of a senior U.S. admiral.

Gen. Yang made the remarks during a military exchange visit in early September, according to two defense officials. The officials discussed the talks on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the contents of the private meetings.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman confirmed that Gen. Yang was hosted by Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr. but declined to provide details of the discussions. The visit included meetings at the DIA, Pentagon and State Department and within the intelligence community, he said, noting that Gen. Yang invited Gen. Burgess to visit China.

The U.S. visit by the senior spymaster was unusual. The Chinese service has been linked to two spy rings that operated against the United States, including the case of California defense contractor Chi Mak, who was sentenced to 24 years in prison last year for supplying China with military technology.

Chinese military intelligence also was behind the cases of two Pentagon officials recently convicted of spying. James W. Fondren Jr., a Pacific Command official, was convicted of espionage Sept. 25 for his role in supplying secrets as part of a spy ring directed by Tai Shen Kuo, a Taiwanese-born naturalized U.S. citizen who court papers said was an agent for Beijing. The second Pentagon official linked to the ring was Gregg Bergersen of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, who was convicted along with Kuo last year for supplying defense technology for China’s military.

Both that spy ring and the Chi Mak case were linked through a Chinese official in Guangzhou, identified in court papers as Pu Pei-liang, who worked as a researcher at the Chinese-military-funded Center for Asia Pacific Studies and received the defense secrets from the spies.

According to defense officials, Gen. Yang is an experienced clandestine operative who speaks English fluently and worked undercover in Europe.

Gen. Yang told U.S. officials during meetings that Chinese leaders were so angered by the disclosure of the Chinese submarine maneuver that they considered canceling the visit at the time by Adm. Gary Roughead, then-Pacific Fleet commander who has since been promoted to chief of naval operations.

The disclosure first appeared in The Washington Times and embarrassed Navy officials, who had to explain how defenses were breached against one of the military’s most important power projection capabilities.

Gen. Yang brought up the incident during talks in Washington and said his intelligence service, known in U.S. intelligence circles as 2PLA, carried out an investigation. He said the service informed senior Chinese communist leaders that they had determined that the press disclosure was not an officially sanctioned leak.

The Chinese Song-class diesel submarine surfaced near the Kitty Hawk on Oct. 26, 2006, and was spotted by one of the ship’s aircraft.

Current and former U.S. officials said Chinese intelligence cooperation, the reason for Gen. Yang’s visit, has been mixed, focusing mainly on large numbers of Chinese reports on Muslim Uighurs in western Xinjiang province. Some of them are linked to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda, but many are dissident Chinese Muslims seeking independence from communist rule.

Former State Department China affairs specialist John J. Tkacik Jr. said Gen. Yang is an expert in cyberwarfare and once headed the PLA’s electronic intelligence section.

“His success as a cyberwarrior led to his promotion from senior colonel to major general and chief of the PLA’s prestigious Second Department, which is not only responsible for military human intelligence collection, but also collates and analyzes all-source intelligence for the PLA,” Mr. Tkacik said.

“I have no doubt that he has been directing the Chinese military’s vast, industrial-vacuum-cleaner cyber-intelligence campaign that has penetrated not just U.S. military computer systems, but just about every U.S. business, university and research institute’s computer systems as well.”

Mr. Tkacik said it is not clear why the Pentagon is seeking to increase transparency with Gen. Yang and his intelligence collectors. “They certainly aren’t going to reciprocate,” he said.

Larry M. Wortzel, a former military intelligence specialist, said he found his past liaison and exchange meetings with the 2PLA to be professional and productive. “I’m pleased the contacts are still going on,” he said.

“As for terrorism reports, the foreign, non-Chinese contacts I had as an attache in China convinced me that at that time, in the late 1990s, a violent separatist movement was active in Xinjiang committing acts of terror,” Mr. Wortzel said.

Wang Baodong, a Chinese Embassy spokesman, had no direct comment on Gen. Yang’s visit but said enhanced military exchanges between the United States and China are mutually beneficial and promote peace and stability.

“We believe that under the current complex and changeable international situation, China and U.S. share expanding common interests in handling various global issues, such as challenging climate change, alleviation of natural disaster, counterterrorism and nonproliferation,” he said.

On the Chinese military spying cases, Mr. Wang said “allegations of China conducting espionage in the U.S. are false and unhelpful for increasing mutual trust between the two countries.”

Kim’s charm offensive

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il, is directing the diplomatic and propaganda “charm offensive” under way as part of efforts to pave the way for the succession of his son, Kim Jong-un, to take over as supreme leader, according to a diplomatic source.

The charm offensive was launched following former President Bill Clinton’s trip to the reclusive communist state in August, which won the release of two imprisoned U.S. journalists at the time.

Since then, North Korea has loosened demands on economic exchanges with South Korea and has held talks with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, signaling an end to Pyongyang’s pique at Beijing’s support for United Nations sanctions against North Korea, which were imposed after its May underground nuclear test.

Kim Jong-il is believed by specialists to be suffering from cancer and has designated his second son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor. One sign of continuing preparations for the succession was the recent promotion of the son to the powerful National Defense Commission.

Meanwhile, the source provided new details on Kim Jong-il’s extravagant lifestyle in a country that is facing widespread food shortages and severe poverty.

According to new intelligence provided by defectors from North Korea, Mr. Kim has been importing large amounts of expensive goods for his personal security and health care.

“Kim Jong-il personally owned 500 or so foreign luxury cars and continues to import luxury vehicles subject to the import ban imposed by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718,” said the source, who has access to intelligence data. Most of the auto imports are Mercedes-Benz sedans, the source said.

Medical equipment purchased by the North Korean leader includes expensive imaging equipment, including MRI, CT and X-ray machines costing millions of dollars. The leader also tried and failed to import two ambulance helicopters worth an estimated $12.8 million.

Mr. Kim also owns a 150-foot yacht with a swimming pool and two water slides and has at least 24 vacation villas throughout North Korea. Mr. Kim contracted with an Italian company in March 2008 to build a European-style rose garden about 6,000 square feet in size at the one house, the Songdowan villa in Wonsan, the southeastern port city.

The North Korean leader also spends lavishly on exotic food imports, including lobster, shark’s fin, caviar and turtle. He is said to favor Chinese melon and Sudanese watermelon.

“When Kim Jong-il’s birthday comes near, North Korean diplomatic missions and trading companies get busy every year preparing a variety of local specialties to present” to him, the source said. “They also import turtle eggs from India, shark’s livers from Angola, seal genitals from South America to invigorate Kim Jong-il’s sexual energy.”

A spokesman at the North Korean mission to the United Nations could not be reached for comment.

Palestinian insurgency

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovitch said Hamas is using “hundreds” of secret tunnels to smuggle arms, foreign fighters and military equipment into Gaza through a nine-mile-square area from Egypt. Many of the tunnels come up through residences as covert exitways.

Col. Leibovitch said Hamas has been working “24/7” to smuggle weapons, missiles and people through the tunnel networks. Although Israel and Egypt have worked to block some of the tunnels, work on the subterranean smuggling routes is continuing.

Israel’s recent military incursion into Gaza dramatically reduced the number of rocket attacks from the Palestinian-controlled enclave into Israel, Col. Leibovitch said in an interview in Washington.

However, Hamas continues to develop both its rocket and missile forces in secret and has missiles capable of reaching the outskirts of Tel Aviv, she said.

Hamas also has been caught four times attempting to smuggle arms and bomb-making know-how into Gaza through covert shipments from the sea. Four ships have been captured attempting to smuggle the arms, she said.

Most of the weapons are smuggled in from Iran, including Chinese-made missiles re-exported by Tehran, she said. They include Kassam rockets, long-range mortars and Grad missiles, including one version with a 25-mile range - twice the range of earlier versions.

IDF statistics show that since January, when rocket and missile strikes from Gaza numbered more than 300 total attacks, the number has declined to 19 Kassam and mortar strikes in September. There have been no Grad strikes since February.

Col. Leibovitch disclosed to Inside the Ring a Hamas map obtained by Israeli forces in the early stages of the military operation last winter. The map shows a neighborhood that was divided into sectors and color-coded to indicate the locations of improvised explosive devices, bombs and the placement of snipers outside two mosques.

Israeli also is developing a new system to shoot down short-range rockets and missiles, called Iron Dome, that is close to being deployed, Col. Leibovitch said.

By contrast, the Palestinian enclave of the West Bank has returned to relative normalcy, she said, with a construction boom, large growth in the gross domestic product, increased tourism, travel and the importation of cars.

Suicide bombers coming from the West Bank also have dropped sharply since the erection of the security barrier. The last time a bomber was attacked was in 2006. As a result, IDF forces have dismantled 170 roadblocks and security checkpoints in the West Bank, Col. Leibovitch said.

“The majority of people in the West Bank have chosen to leave terrorism behind them,” she said. “But in Gaza, radical Islam is taking a very dangerous direction.”

Afghan reassessment

The Obama administration’s decision to take some time before deciding on the request from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal for up to 40,000 more troops in Afghanistan is hurting efforts to obtain nonmilitary resources for the counterinsurgency program in the country, according to a senior military official.

“While the Obama administration ponders - I won’t say delays - the McChrystal assessment, a lot of resources that people in Afghanistan are seeking from various agencies are being sat on,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly.

It has been difficult to get nonmilitary agencies of government, both U.S. and foreign, to persuade people to go to Afghanistan as part of reconstruction and stability efforts. With the delay in answering Gen. McChrystal’s request for more troops and discussion among senior officials in Washington of rewriting a second new strategy in six months, getting agencies to commit their people has become harder, the official said.

“People are not moving to send their people here if they are not sure what [the] overall administration position is,” the official said.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is visiting Washington for talks, told The Washington Times that he believes the Obama administration review of the troop request will be completed by late October or early November.

Air Force Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, a spokesman for the military in Afghanistan, would not comment directly on the civilian resource delays. “The current situation from our perspective is exactly what the president and others have said it is: an important effort to ensure that the proper strategy is in place before we resolve to provide the resources that will match that strategy,” he said. “We support that approach.”

The Pentagon recently ordered the deployment of up to 3,500 military “enablers” to Afghanistan to help with stability efforts.

Policymakers are pointing to the recent flawed elections as the basis for re-evaluating the Afghan strategy of a troop surge combined with countrywide civilian development efforts.

One possible strategy change could be shifting from a counterinsurgency strategy aimed at defeating the Islamist Taliban to a counterterrorism strategy focused more on al Qaeda terror groups and their offshoots and targeting them with unmanned aerial vehicle strikes and long-range Tomahawk missile attacks, with few troops on the ground.

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