Return to

November 3, 2011
Notes from the Pentagon

China is continuing to provide advanced missiles and other conventional arms to Iran and may be doing so in violation of U.N. sanctions against the Tehran regime, according to a draft report by the congressional U.S.-China Commission.

“China continues to provide Iran with what could be considered advanced conventional weapons,” the report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission says.

According to the report, which will be made public Nov. 16, China sold $312 million worth of arms to Iran, second only to Russia, after Congress passed the Iran Freedom Support Act in 2006 that allows the U.S. government to sanction foreign companies that provide advanced arms to Iran.

The report also noted that, after Russia began cutting back arms transfers to Iran in 2008, China became the largest arms supplier to the Iranian military.

Most of the weapons transfers involved sales of Chinese anti-ship cruise missiles, including C-802 missiles that China promised the United States in 1997 would not be exported to Iran.

China also built an entire missile plant in Iran last year to produce the Nasr-1 anti-ship cruise missile.

“Because of the relatively short range of these missiles, China’s provision of them to Iran does not violate the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act of 2006, which seeks to prevent the transfer of only those missiles that can carry a 500-kilogram warhead more than 300 kilometers,” the report says.

“It is possible, however, that these transactions violate the Iran Freedom Support Act, or the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010, which both use the ambiguous term ‘advanced conventional weapons.’ “

Regarding China’s professed claims to have ended all backing for Iran’s nuclear- and ballistic-missile programs, the report says “there has been speculation that China, or Chinese entities, have quietly continued to provide some support for Iran’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile capabilities.”

The report says China also is supporting North Korea's military and providing economic and technical assistance to Pyongyang.

The report concludes: “Despite Beijing’s stated claim to be acting as a responsible major power, China continues to place its national interests ahead of regional stability by providing economic and diplomatic support to countries that undermine international security.”

Chinese Embassy spokesman Wang Baodong denied China violated U.N. sanctions.

“When it comes to the issue of nonproliferation, China has been strictly adhering to the relevant U.N. resolutions and faithfully carries out its international obligations while strictly implementing its relevant domestic policies and regulations in the field.”

He said the commission “should cast off its Cold War mentality, respect the facts and stop making unwarranted allegations against China.”

The Obama administration, despite public claims to the contrary, appears ready to try and limit U.S. missile defenses in agreements, according to a key House Republican leader.

Rep. Michael R. Turner, Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, said during a hearing Wednesday that he is concerned the administration is working to amend the NATO-Russia Council charter “to create guarantees regarding missile defense.”

“That has no support here and should be a nonstarter,” Mr. Turner said in a prepared statement for the hearing.

The charter outlines relations between Russia's government and NATO members for the council, which was created in 2002 as part of the alliance.

Moscow, for the past several years, has been demanding legal guarantees that U.S. missile defenses in Europe will not be used to target Russian missiles — guarantees that missile defense advocates say would limit U.S. defenses.

Computer hackers in China likely carried out the sophisticated cyber-attack against the security company RSA in March, according to the draft annual report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

RSA announced in March that its security product was compromised through a cyber-intrusion. The company provides encryption services that allow government and contractor users to log on remotely to secure computer networks.

“Although the company did not name China specifically, subsequent research demonstrated that components of the attack utilized a tool called ‘HTran,’ developed by a well-known member of the hacking group ‘Honker Union of China,’ ” the report says.

Analysis of the hacking tool revealed that the attackers tried to mask their location by routing command instructions from mainland China through computer servers in Japan, Taiwan, Europe and the United States, the report says.

“The perpetrators then used information about the compromised RSA security product in order to target a number of the firm’s customers, including at least three prominent entities within the U.S. defense industrial base,” the report adds, noting that those intrusions and intrusion attempts “also originated in China and appeared to be state-sponsored.”

Because the attack involved stealing technology that involved encryption and coding technologies, computer experts have said the sophistication was beyond the abilities of most nonstate hackers.

The communist government in North Korea has taken to Twitter. According to U.S. officials, a North Korean government-linked Twitter account has been operating daily since August 2010.

The Pyongyang account, @uriminzok puts out a steady stream of messages on Twitter, mainly to highlight content from a North Korean propaganda website aimed at overseas Koreans.

The website is run out of Shenyang, China, and operated by North Korea’s United Front Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea, a quasi-intelligence and influence organization. The department appears to be connected to North Korean efforts directed against rival South Korea.

According to U.S. officials, the North Koreans appear to regard Twitter and other social media as an additional channel to spread propaganda extolling dictator Kim Jong-il and other aspects of the communist regime.

U.S. intelligence agencies have been monitoring activity on the account and uncovered some interesting patterns.

For example, the account went silent after South Korean hackers broke into it and were able to shut it down for two months. The account resumed its tweets March 5.

Activity has ranged from as few as three tweets a day to as many as 30.

Most of the Korean-language tweets link to North Korean propaganda articles, many of which extol the “Dear Leader” Kim, and other propaganda.

The Army will not be run over by those in Congress and in the Pentagon who want to cancel its next-generation all-purpose vehicle.

At a cost of $54 billion, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is a ripe target for budget-cutters in this age of finding ways to reduce the ballooning federal deficit.

A Senate subcommittee already has voted to defund. There are also Pentagon political appointees who would knock it out of the next five-year budget, says Washington Times reporter Rowan Scarborough.

But the Army is standing firm, saying it must have a solider-protected armored vehicle to ferry ground forces amid the dangers of improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades.

It would replace the venerable, but more vulnerable, Humvee, a jeeplike vehicle not originally designed to survive the types of roadside bombs exploding in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, told the House Armed Services subcommittee on readiness that the service needs time to develop the JLTV and see if it makes better sense than continuing to buy refortified Humvees.

“I just think it’s absolutely essential that we be allowed to continue that critical work, or we will end up with a force that is not modernized,” he said. “And a force that is not modernized is an unbalanced force, and in the end it will cost us lives.”

The Army is not just talking. Weeks before Gen. Chiarelli testified, it issued a draft request for proposal to industry to show what they would produce if they won the JLTV production contract.

Loren B. Thompson, who heads the Lexington Institute, said the Army already has canceled new missile and communications systems, and may now be forced to give up the 70-mph, all-terrain JLTV.

“Does anybody in the Obama Administration understand that killing such programs nearly guarantees soldiers will die unnecessarily in future wars?” Mr. Thompson wrote in a column, “The Cloud Hanging Over America’s Army.”

“Since coming into office, it has presided over the cancellation of nearly two dozen next-generation vehicles, munitions, communications links and other combat systems that would have helped America’s soldiers to survive and win in future wars.

“To make matters worse, it has tightened up on contracting terms to such a degree that defense companies aren’t even sure they want to participate in the programs that remain. The arsenal of the future is disappearing with each passing month, and today’s savings are being bought at the expense of tomorrow’s soldiers.”

Return to