NEWS AND ANALYSIS:
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced in China this week that he had authorized releasing details of the U.S. cyber warfare doctrine unilaterally to China in a bid to win similar cooperation from Beijing.
So far, China has not reciprocated in discussing one of its most secret operations — military cyber warfare programs to attack foreign computer networks for spying and sabotage, U.S. officials said.
U.S. cyber warfare operations are restricted under President Obama‘s soft-line military policies, Mr. Hagel disclosed in a speech in Beijing.
Speaking Tuesday to People’s Liberation Army students at the National Defense University, Mr. Hagel said that, as part of a U.S.-China cyber working group, the administration has expressed “concerns about Chinese use of networks to perpetrate commercial espionage and intellectual property theft.”
But instead of pressing the Chinese to curb cyberattacks, the defense secretary said the Pentagon has sought to “be more open about our cyber capabilities, including our approach of restraint.” He said that, for the first time ever, the Pentagon had provided Chinese officials with a briefing on U.S. doctrine on cyber capabilities.
Asked about the briefing, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart said no classified information was disclosed to the Chinese at the briefing held in Beijing in December. The briefing was given by Christopher Painter, State Department coordinator for cyber issues, and Eric Rosenbach, then-deputy assistant defense secretary for cyber policy.
The Chinese were told about U.S. cyber warfare and defensive doctrine and policy, including a summary of Pentagon cyber operations and activities.
“The purpose of this briefing was to increase transparency of one other’s military cyber activities and intentions,” Col. Pickart said.
According to a summary of 10 points presented during the briefing, the two U.S. officials stated the U.S. and China both rely on cyberspace and thus should work to build “mutual confidence” by openness regarding cyber activities.
Both sides shared concerns about cyberattacks and penetrations of networks, and the U.S. officials said that without greater transparency, “this kind of behavior in cyberspace can be misinterpreted and escalate tensions,” according to the summary.
“It is in both countries’ interests to minimize the risk of destabilizing behavior in cyberspace,” the summary said.
According to Col. Pickart, the Pentagon gave the Chinese a “policy framework” of its cyber operations outlined in presidential and Pentagon strategies on the topic.
The briefing also sought to clarify the Pentagon’s roles and missions for operations in cyberspace, and it sought to provide China with an understanding of U.S. cyber organization and force development, including the creation of Cyber Mission Forces.
Col. Pickart did not disclose how the Chinese side responded, but another U.S. official familiar with the talks said China, as it has publicly, denied it engages in large-scale cyber espionage against U.S. government and private targets.
In fact, China in recent months has increased cyberattacks on the U.S., according to The New York Times, which first reported the cyber briefing on Sunday.
China’s military has been engaged in large-scale cyberattacks on U.S. government and corporate computer networks for more than a decade, according to Obama administration and congressional security officials.
During a press conference after the Hagel speech, Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Chang Wanquan denied that China’s military engages in any cyber espionage or cyber military operations against the U.S.
“On cyberspace, China adheres to the principle of peace, security, openness, and cooperation,” Gen. Chang said. “The defense activity of the [People’s Liberation Army] in cyberspace abides by the domestic law and the universally recognized law. It will not pose a threat to others.”
The general’s comment, however, was a rare public acknowledgement that China has a secret cyber warfare program run by the military.
Former State Department official John Tkacik questioned the Pentagon’s release of cyber warfare data to China in the briefing.
“I can’t see any useful outcomes of a unilateral sharing of cyber doctrine with any Chinese entity,” Mr. Tkacik said, noting that the Pentagon’s most recent budget identified China’s emerging cyber warfare capabilities as one the new challenges facing the military.
Seeking Chinese cooperation by offering the cyber war briefing as a concession “betrays the most dangerous sort of naivet on the part of the Pentagon and any diplomats who recommended it,” he added.
Mr. Tkacik also said Congress has restricted information the Pentagon is permitted to share with China to make sure such exchanges do not undermine U.S. national security. The law “by any definition, covers cyber warfare,” he said.
Despite Mr. Hagel’s effort to curry favor with the Chinese, Beijing’s most senior military leader criticized the defense secretary for comments he made about China’s maritime bullying during earlier stops in Hawaii and Japan.
“The Chinese people, including myself, are dissatisfied with such remarks,” said Gen. Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission.
RUSSIA’S ICBM WARNING
Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned Ukraine’s government this week not to sell technology that is used in Russia’s most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile, the 10-warhead SS-18 Mod 5.
The April 7 statement said there had been negotiations between Ukraine’s state-owned Yuzhmash missile manufacturer and unspecified foreign buyers for “the sale of the technology for the production of heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles.”
The factory in question at Dnipropetrovsk, southeast of Kiev, has long been a source of missile technology for the Chinese military.
A Defense Intelligence Agency report disclosed by The Washington Times on May 20, 1996, revealed that China and then-newly independent Ukraine had concluded a space cooperation agreement that U.S. intelligence agencies believed was part of covert efforts to gain access to SS-18 technology for China’s missile and space launcher programs.
China is believed to have incorporated SS-18 engines technology and other missile components into its growing arsenal of DF-31, DF-31A and DF-41 ICBMs.
Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine’s president at the time, concluded a space cooperation deal with China in 1996, and Kuchma was the former director of the Yuzhnoye missile factory, that was closely associated with Yuzhmash.
Russia’s statement said Ukraine’s transfer of SS-18 technology would violate international export control regimes limiting long-range missile transfers.
“We trust that, despite the complicated internal political situation in Ukraine and the absence of legitimate supreme authorities, the current leaders of the country will exercise due responsibility, will meet the obligations and will refrain from steps that undermine the existing regimes of nonproliferation of [weapons of mass destruction] and delivery vehicles,” the statement said.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry told Congress this week that Russia is fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine.
U.S. officials are concerned that Russia is looking for a pretext to launch a military invasion of eastern Ukraine, where some 40,000 troops are massed. Two possible triggers for an invasion could be the alleged mistreatment of ethnic Russians in Ukraine or assertions that Moscow’s ICBM technology is being transferred to foreign powers.
Since the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russia government last month, China has sped up efforts to take delivery of military equipment from Ukraine.
Among the weapons recently sent to China were several large Zubr air-cushioned amphibious ships and several IL-76 transports.
CHINESE SUBS NEAR JAPAN
China’s military forces for the first time in more than a year have dispatched a submarine near Okinawa, after having sent numerous aircraft and warships to the area.
The Chinese submarine was detected March 19 near Okinawa, where thousands of U.S. Marines are stationed, as it sailed just outside Japanese territorial waters near Miyako Island.
The vessel was detected by a Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces patrol aircraft, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported, quoting Japanese defense officials who did not specify what type of submarine was detected.
The last known detection of a Chinese navy submarine near Okinawa was in May, when a U.S. surveillance ship detected a Yuan-class attack submarine.
China has sharply increased its military activities near Japan as part of a war of nerves over the disputed Senkaku Islands, located south of Okinawa.
• Contact Bill Gertz at @BillGertz.