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February 22, 2002
Notes from the Pentagon

China missile sale
China's military delivered a shipment of naval anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

The missile shipment took place in January and is a sign Beijing continues to be a major supplier to states President Bush identified as an "axis of evil."

The missiles were identified as HQ-7 surface-to-air missiles with a range of up to 8 nautical miles. The missile is a reverse-engineered version of France's Crotale missile system. It travels at twice the speed of sound. It includes advanced guidance and control systems, including infrared and television tracking.

The missile sale did not violate China's 1998 pledge made to the United States that it would halt sales of C-801 and C-802 anti-ship cruise missiles to Iran.

China's missile sales to Pakistan were raised in talks in Beijing between U.S. and Chinese officials as part of the summit between President Bush and Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

No agreement was reached on curbing Chinese arms sales at the talks. The Chinese have not followed through with a pledge to impose new export controls on its state-run arms makers.

The Bush administration imposed sanctions on China twice in the past six months for sales of missile goods to Pakistan, and chemical and biological weapons components to Iran. A CIA report made public last month stated: "China is a primary supplier of advanced conventional weapons to Pakistan and Iran, among others."

The Pentagon and the White House budget office this week are negotiating the size of a current-year emergency-spending bill to pay for the ongoing war on terrorism.

The Pentagon had drawn up requests for $20 billion. It has now whittled the package down to $16 billion. But the White House does not want to exceed $10 billion, defense sources say, to keep the projected deficit as small as possible.

President Bush is proposing to fund next year's emergency defense bill upfront in the pending fiscal 2003 Pentagon budget. But Capitol Hill sources say it is unlikely lawmakers will give the Pentagon a blank check. Instead, the money will be earmarked for big-ticket items, such as ships and aircraft.

Shipbuilding advocates want part of that $10 billion to fund three new ships: a destroyer, an amphibious assault ship and a Virginia-class submarine.

Team player
Administration sources say the most intense opposition to President Bush's "axis of evil" speech didn't come from overseas. It came from career diplomats inside his own State Department.

Insiders say the opposition was so widespread Secretary of State Colin L. Powell had to put out the word to his employees to be team players.

Mr. Powell himself has become more of a team player in recent weeks when it comes to policy against Iraq. In a National Security Council dominated by hawks like Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Mr. Powell was a lone voice of restraint. He once disputed in public the views of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, an ardent hawk on Iraq.

Taiwan diesel subs
The Bush administration in April promised to sell Taiwan up to eight diesel submarines to bolster the island's coastal defenses against a major Chinese naval and missile buildup.

Almost a year later, the Pentagon is still figuring out how to do it. The United States last built a diesel-electric submarine in 1958. Efforts to build the submarines with a design or hull produced by other nations also have not panned out, because of pressure from Beijing to block the sales.

Now word has reached us that there is opposition to the submarine deal from an unlikely source: the U.S. Navy. Submariners are quietly lobbying against opening production of diesel submarines. They fear that once the Pentagon gets back into the diesel-submarine business, it will make it harder to get Congress to fund construction of big-ticket nuclear-powered submarines.

"The Navy is very, very nervous," said one person close to the Pentagon. The reason is simple. The Navy can build four very quiet diesel-electric submarines for the cost of one new Virginia-class submarine.

Another option being considered for the Taiwan submarine deal is to refurbish old diesel submarines with new equipment, although that option is not favored by Taipei.

Taiwan is said to favor building diesel submarines with U.S. help and eventually building its own. Talks on the Taiwan submarine deal are set for next month.

Visiting hours
The Pentagon has settled on strict visitation rules for the 300 or so al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners being held at the U.S. Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Visitors are restricted to clergy, as well as FBI interrogators for criminal investigative matters, and CIA and Pentagon officials for intelligence collection. No nongovernmental organizations may visit, except the International Red Cross.

The interrogators have had mixed success to date in gaining valuable information about how al Qaeda operates, and when and where it plans to attack next. The best information continues to come in the form of documents, computer hard drives, cell phones and videos found in Afghanistan.

New special ops
Civil Affairs, the branch of special operations that helps war-torn countries recover and rebuild government institutions, will soon be going to Afghanistan.

The Pentagon has activated two reserve units who are now at Fort Bragg, N.C., training for the new mission. Civil Affairs soldiers were instrumental in rebuilding the Balkans. They helped set up a judicial and education system, reaffirming the American military's goal of leaving places better than it found them.

Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, has devoted a good part his Senate career to improving the military's combat readiness. On no issue has he been more persistent than preserving the Puerto Rican island of Vieques as a practice range for Navy carrier battle groups. But he cannot get the Navy to answer one question: If commanders request it, will the Bush administration let a battle group practice with real ammo on Vieques?

He asked Navy Secretary Gordon England that question repeatedly at a recent hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, but never got a "yes" or "no" answer.

Mr. England's reply angered Sen. Jim Bunning, Kentucky Republican, more than it did Mr. Inhofe. "Mr. Secretary," Mr. Bunning said, "if you would have testified before this committee as you have testified in response to Sen. Inhofe during your confirmation hearings, you would have not received my vote at least."

The mistrust on Vieques stems from the fact that the top Marine and Navy officers asked Mr. England to let the carrier USS John Kennedy use real bullets at Vieques before going off to the war on terrorism. The Atlantic Fleet commander decided against sending the Kennedy to Puerto Rico, according to a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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