Return to

Dec. 20, 2012
Notes from the Pentagon

U.S. warns China on North Korea
The State Department is pressuring Beijing about its communist ally North Korea following failed efforts to halt the recent rocket launch that proved to be Pyongyang’s first successful long-range missile test.

According to a Western intelligence official, the State Department sent a diplomatic protest note to China after the Dec. 12 launch that placed a non-functioning satellite into orbit.

The message to Beijing from Washington was blunt: Do more to rein in North Korea or the United States will sharply increase military cooperation with Asian allies, including Japan and South Korea.

The Obama administration, as part of its “lead from behind” strategy, had placed responsibility for halting the North Korean missile test on China, arguing it is in Beijing’s interest to maintain regional stability by stopping the launch.

However, China failed to head off the launch, which was the second test this year of what the Pentagon is calling a long-range missile known as the Taepodong-2.

A Chinese delegation visited Pyongyang in early December in what U.S. officials assessed was an attempt to persuade the regime of Kim Jong-un not to conduct the test.

The delegation, however, either did not press the North Koreans to stop the launch or simply traveled to Pyongyang to make it appear that China was responding to U.S. government concerns.

China state television reported Beijng’s “regret” for the launch the day of the test, adding that “if every country does the same, the world will be turned upside down.”

The failure to stop the launch highlights China’s continuing covert support for North Korea, whose military leaders remain closely aligned with China’s communist-ruled military.

The relationship between the People’s Liberation Army and the Korean People's Army has been characterized in typical Chinese fashion “as close as lips and teeth.”

Those ties do not appear to be changing under the new regimes of Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Mr. Kim.

Nuclear test site watched
U.S. intelligence agencies have stepped up monitoring of North Korea’s underground nuclear site in anticipation that Pyongyang will follow past practice by conducting an underground nuclear blast after a long-range missile test.

One official said there were no signs that a nuclear test is imminent, and there was no increased activity at the Kilju test facility in the mountains in the northeastern part of the country.a Official assessments are that North Korea could conduct another nuclear test with little preparation.

South Korean officials, according to news reports, have said North Korea probably will conduct a third nuclear test after the missile test flight.

Missile defense coming East
A provision of the defense authorization bill requiring deployment of a third long-range anti-missile interceptor base on the East Coast survived the House-Senate conference this week.

If the bill becomes law, the Obama administration will be required to build the new site at one of three locations in the eastern United States by the end of 2015.

The third Ground Based Interceptor site is opposed by the Pentagon because it is thought to upset plans for the less-capable Europe-based missile defense plan that the administration has hoped — so far unsuccessfully — would mollify Russian opposition to U.S. and allied missile defenses.

Missile defense specialists, however, say the administration’s European defense plans will not be effective in countering growing missile threats.

Now it appears Congress agrees. A House Armed Services Committee statement said the third base is needed “to respond to rising ballistic missile threats from states like Iran.”

The third interceptor base is in addition to bases at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Rep. Michael R. Turner, Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic services, said passage of the missile defense provision highlights congressional opposition to administration cuts for missile defenses.

“The planning and study for an additional U.S. missile defense site is welcome news because it signals agreement that it is time to put the missile defense of the homeland as our top priority,” Mr. Turner said, adding that North Korea’s recent missile test was a warning that “we can no longer afford the administration’s disregard of homeland missile defense.”

Earlier this year, U.S. officials familiar with missile defense plans said two possible locations for the third site are Loring Air Force Base, Maine, a strategic base that was closed in 1994, and Fort Drum in upstate New York.

Kerry and intelligence
Some intelligence and security officials privately are expressing concerns over reports that Sen. John F. Kerry is first in line to be the next secretary of state after Hillary Rodham Clinton steps down.

The reason: Officials oppose the Massachusetts Democrat for hiring John Kiriakou to serve on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which Mr. Kerry is chairman.

Most reports about Kiriakou’s recent conviction for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act note that he worked for Mr. Kerry as a senior committee staff member dealing with counterterrorism and detainee issues.

Kiriakou pleaded guilty Oct. 23 to one count of violating the law by disclosing the name of a CIA officer to a journalist.

The statement of facts in the case reveals that after Kiriakou disclosed the identity of the undercover CIA officer, the name was disclosed to lawyers representing al Qaeda terrorists in the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The CIA officer had been an interrogator, and Kiriakou was part of the lawyers’ plan to use possible disclosure of the identity of CIA interrogators in their legal defense during tribunals.

Kiriakou is seen by supporters as a victim of overzealous anti-media prosecutors. But intelligence and security officials said his role in the disclosure of CIA officers to al Qaeda terrorists was not whistleblowing. “He is a real bad actor,” said one official.

Senators who have campaigned against intelligence leaks are expected to question Mr. Kerry about hiring Kirakou during any future nomination hearing.

CIA anger at Kirakou was reflected in a statement by then-CIA Director David H. Petraeus, who said the prosecution “marks an important victory for our agency, for our intelligence community, and for our country.”

Kyl bids farewell
Sen. Jon Kyl signed off Wednesday from the Senate after 18 years in office. The retiring Arizona Republican will be missed by colleagues who view him as one of the most experienced national security leaders in the chamber.

“I have tried to follow the Reagan legacy of pursuing peace through strength,” Mr. Kyl said in a farewell address. “As President Reagan once said, ‘Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because America was too strong.’”

Mr. Kyl said American strength is urgently needed to safeguard democratic values around the world. To meet current challenges, the U.S. needs strong military capabilities to deal with four issues: nuclear arms modernization, missile defenses, terrorist threats and transnational law.

Mr. Kyl took issue with President Obama’s nuclear policies: “For the first time in the history of U.S. nuclear policy, the president has placed nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, rather than nuclear deterrence, atop the U.S. nuclear agenda.”

However, the senator said treaties and unilateral actions on nuclear disarmament will not address nuclear dangers and are troubling U.S. allies dependent on nuclear power.

“We should think very carefully, therefore, before we contemplate any changes to long-standing U.S. nuclear deterrence policies, or pursue further reductions, in support of the president’s disarmament agenda,” he said. “We absolutely cannot know for certain that fewer numbers of weapons will make us safer.”

Mr. Kyl also warned against Russian efforts to limit U.S. missile defenses, calling it one of the “greatest challenges we face today.”

“The United States cannot allow Russia to dictate to us limits on the capabilities of U.S. missile defenses,” he said. “If they could be effective against a Russian launch, so be it. That’s what it means to protect Americans from potential threats. If the Russians argue that they pose no possible threat, then our missile defense should be irrelevant to them.”

Return to