NEWS AND ANALYSIS:
China’s new ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, arrived in Washington this week and takes up the key diplomatic post with a notable past of diplomatic activities, as detailed in leaked classified State Department cables from 2006 and 2010.
Mr. Cui is known as a longtime Foreign Ministry “barbarian handler,” as U.S. government China hands describe officials in Beijing charged with dealing with Americans.
A review of cables made public by WikiLeaks reveals that Mr. Cui was actively involved in defending China’s arms sales to Iran; once was scolded by senior Communist leaders for an embarrassing security lapse while ambassador to Japan; and has a surprising pro-U.S. position on Korean unification that will likely anger power brokers in China’s pro-North Korean People’s Liberation Army.
According to a Feb. 22, 2010 cable labeled “secret,” Mr. Cui while vice foreign minister told South Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Chun Yung-woo that China would not be able to stop the collapse of the North Korea regime of Kim Jong-il after he dies.
The South Korean official said Mr. Cui believed Pyongyang “already collapsed economically and would collapse politically in two to three years after the death of Kim Jong-il,” who died in December 2011.
The English-speaking Mr. Cui represents a new generation of more “sophisticated” Chinese officials who once revealed in private conversations that “Korea should be unified under ROK [South Korean] control” because China’s leaders realize the regime in Pyongyang has little value as a buffer state, a view reportedly gaining traction among senior Chinese leaders, the cable says.
Another once-secret cable dated Feb. 12, 2010 reveals that Mr. Cui came under fire for an embarrassing security incident during a visit to Japan by China’s then-vice president, Xi Jinping, when Mr. Cui was China’s ambassador in Tokyo.
According to the cable, Japan’s government declined to upgrade security for the Xi visit in December 2009, and as a result Mr. Xi, now president, was met by anti-China protesters who shouted slogans such as “go home” and “go to hell.”
The incident in Japan caused the Chinese security detail to “become extremely agitated and flustered,” the cable said. As a result, Mr. Cui “was sent back to Beijing for a scolding after Xi’s visit,” the cable said.
Earlier in August 2007, Mr. Cui, then an assistant foreign minister, rejected U.S. requests to end conventional arms sales to Iran, including anti-ship cruise missiles, and defended missile-related transfers to Tehran that Washington said violated U.N. sanctions on Iran.
Mr. Cui denounced what he termed “U.S. pressure” on China over the arms sales and claimed they were legal and “critical to China’s economic development.”
“Current trade simply fulfills previously signed contracts,” the cable quoted Mr. Cui as stating. Additionally, he said: “We understand U.S. concerns regarding weapons going from Iran to Iraq. China has no intention of facilitating that transfer.”
U.S. military officials later uncovered large numbers of Chinese weapons that were transferred to insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan by Iran.
Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia
Al Qaeda operated eight terrorist cells in Saudi Arabia with 15 branch cells all with “hundreds” of terrorists that were dismantled over the past decade, Saudi security services say.
The terrorists’ main goal was to overthrow the monarchy in the oil-rich kingdom, according to security files reviewed by the Jedda newspaper Okaz.
Al Qaeda’s Saudi nationwide branch was made up of a commander, a military leader, a financial officer and a weapons official, the March 30 report stated.
“The principal cells were managed by trained leading members of the terrorist organization, who subscribed to the ideology of terrorist al Qaeda organization leader, the irredeemable Osama bin Laden, while the other elements were members recruited within Saudi Arabia, and who were subjected to intensive training to carry out the terrorist schemes given to them by the commanders of the cell, and originally from [bin Laden],” the report stated.
The cells were spread around the kingdom in several regions and cities. They included the capital Riyadh, an eastern region cell, a Medina cell, a Mecca cell, an al Qasim cell, north and south cells, and cells located in neighboring United Arab Emirates, Oman and Kuwait.
Saudi security described the cells as taking two forms: Secret action groups in cities and less-organized groups of fighters located in remote regions.
The city cells were divided into four sections: Two-man command groups in charge of recruiting, training, secure communications and selecting targets and planning attacks directed from al Qaeda leaders. Information-gathering groups in charge of reconnaissance made up of four or fewer members who cased targets and reported on security related to the attack locations. Technical and administrative preparation groups of four or fewer terrorists with the mission of preparing for attack operations, provision of weapons, the use of secure houses, buying and smuggling weapons and renting houses and cars. Implementation teams whose membership varied depending on the size of the operation.
The information was obtained by the Saudis from interrogations and confessions from captured al Qaeda members, including those who worked with bin Laden. A key criteria for membership was strictly obeying orders from the group’s leaders.
Key targets of the group included Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, the key to the kingdom’s wealth, along with assassination cells that targeted officials.
Saudi Arabia since 2001 has been hit with 140 terrorist attacks that killed 145 security officials, citizens and residents while wounding 674 people, the report said.
POST, N.Y. TIMES MISS SCOOPS
Evidence that two top U.S. newspapers missed a major scoop surfaced during the recent trial of Pvt. Bradley Manning, charged with leaking some 250,000 military and government documents, many of the them classified, to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
Manning pleaded guilty Feb. 28 to 10 of 22 charges leveled against him, not including a charge of aiding the enemy.
Manning’s court statement reveals that both the New York Times and Washington Post rejected his offer of the documents, something observers say was in sharp contrast to both newspapers’ past reputation for aggressive news reporting.
The former military intelligence analyst’s statement to a military court dated Jan. 29 said he was first rebuffed by a female Post reporter in early 2010.
“I asked her if the Washington Post would be interested in receiving information that would have enormous value to the American public,” he stated, noting that after a five-minute talk “I do not believe she took me seriously.”
Manning was told the Post is “possibly interested” but not until first seeing the material and consulting senior editors.
Manning didn’t wait. He then said he “decided to contact the largest and most popular newspaper, the New York Times.”
He called the Times’ public editor and left a voice message with his contact information, stating that “I had access to information about Iraq and Afghanistan that I believed was very important.” However, “I never received a reply from the New York Times.”
The Post during the early 1970s broke the Watergate scandal when White House operatives were caught breaking in to Democratic Party offices. The news coverage was viewed widely as contributing to the eventual resignation of President Richard M. Nixon.
The New York Times defied journalistic convention in 1971 by publishing a classified study that became known as the “Pentagon Papers,” revealing internal policy differences on the Vietnam War.
Conservative critics have accused both newspapers of liberal bias for failing to aggressively cover President Obama and his administration.