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Feb. 18, 2016
Notes from the Pentagon

PLA on cyber warfare buildup
A Chinese military official revealed last month that Beijing plans to rapidly build a new People’s Liberation Army cyberwarfare force in response to U.S. military cyberforces.

Col. Li Minghai of the PLA’s National Defense University wrote in the Communist Party-affiliated Global Times newspaper that a new cyberwarfare force is needed to counter the United States as the Pentagon is building up its cyberattack capabilities.

“It is more necessary for us to build a brand new ‘operation force,’” said Col. Li, identified as deputy director of the NDU’s Center for Cyberspace Security.

As a sign of the sensitivity of the report, Chinese censors quickly removed the posting in Chinese from the Global Times website shortly after it appeared Jan. 21.

Col. Li is one of China’s most senior cyberwarfare specialists, and his remarks provide some of the first clues to Beijing’s military priorities in future cyberwarfare operations. Military cyberoperations are among China’s most closely guarded secrets.

The 3rd Department of the PLA general staff, known as 3PLA, is China’s main military cyberwarfare force and is said to have up to 100,000 cyberwarriors. A copy of the colonel’s translated article was obtained by Inside the Ring.

Col. Li stated that the U.S. military’s cybersecurity strategy for the past four years has emphasized offensive electronic attacks on information systems and regards China as “one of the greatest threats to the United States’ cybersecurity.”

Noting that current cyberthreats to China are “not sensational or alarmist talk,” Col. Li said reforms to PLA cyberforces should not be limited to “tinkering,” but require “the rebuilding of a new-breed cyberforce in our country.”

“We should apply the brand-new development model in the information age to remold our cyberwarfare preparedness against the threat of the United States’ new cyberstrategy and guarantee our nation’s cybersecurity,” he said.

A key feature will be what is described as a “winning mechanism” for warfare in the cyberspace domain.

“In the 21st century, seizing control of cyberspace is of decisive significance, like seizing control of the sea in the 19th century and seizing control of the air in the 20th century,” Col. Li wrote. “Cyberoperations in the future will follow the new battlefield rules determined by the winning mechanisms of ‘real-time sensing, sensitive response, source destruction and chain cutoff, joint winning.’”

Also, cyberpower must be combined with conventional military power “with winning being based on information power.”

Cyberwarfare troops will target information technology infrastructure networks like the Internet, telecommunications systems and computer systems, including imbedded processors and controllers in major sectors.

A third priority for the cyberwarfare force will be adding more trained military hackers.

“At present, our country still lacks high-end specialists with both knowledge about network technology and knowledge about military command, so it is imperative that we step up the efforts for building the cyberoperation force,” Col. Li concluded.

Publication of the report coincided with China’s creation of a Strategic Support Force, announced Dec. 31, that will include dedicated cyberwarfare forces, along with space warfare units.

Cybersecurity expert Joe McReynolds disclosed last year that China’s cyberwarfare forces were outlined for the first time in a Chinese military paper. The PLA cyberwar force has three elements, including a cadre of dedicated military specialists devoted to network warfare that conduct cyberattacks and defense, Mr. McReynolds told The Daily Beast.

Other forces include teams of specialists working in civilian intelligence, police and security organs who conduct military cyberoperations. Last are units outside government that will be mobilized for network warfare.

The Pentagon is moving ahead with plans to deploy a high-powered missile defense system in its South Korean ally that China calls a threat to its security.

“The [U.S.-South Korean] joint working group has met, and consultations are ongoing,” Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban said, adding that the group is working “expeditiously, but meticulously” on the deployment.

A Pentagon official said the weapons system can be rapidly deployed and that the only impediment is reaching a quick agreement.

“The deployment can be done in two weeks or 20 months,” said one military official familiar with the plans. The entire package can be delivered in 17 flights aboard C-17 cargo jets.

The official said Osan Air Base, the main U.S. military air base in the country, is the most likely deployment site. The base is about 40 miles south of Seoul.

One THAAD battery will be dispatched. It will include 24 anti-missile interceptors, three truck-mounted launchers and the high-powered AN/TPY-2 X-band radar.

Compared with the Patriot PAC-3 missile defenses in South Korea, THAAD has greater range and capability, including the ability to shoot down incoming short-, medium- and intermediate-range missiles.

The addition of THAAD will provide what the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, said is an extra layer of missile defense protection.

“North Korea continues to develop their nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, and it is the responsibility of our alliance to maintain a strong defense against those threats,” he said in a statement. “THAAD can add an important capability in a layered and effective missile defense.”

The four-star general requested the system in 2014, but Seoul balked from the deployment in response to pressure from China, which views THAAD as a threat to its missile forces. The South Koreans, however, changed course and agreed to the missiles following the recent North Korean underground nuclear test and subsequent test of a long-range TD-2 missile Feb. 7.

The Pentagon has thrown a wrench into efforts by the White House to close the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before President Obama leaves office.

Army Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville, director of the Joint Staff, told several Republican members of Congress last month that while the military supports efforts to close the prison, current law prohibits sending any detainees to the United States.

“Current law prohibits the use of funds to ‘transfer, release, or assist in the transfer or release’ of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to or within the United States, and prohibits the construction, modification, or acquisition of any facility in the United States to house any Guantanamo detainee,” Gen. Mayville said in a Jan. 21 letter. “The Joint Staff will not take any action contrary to those restrictions.”

Asked about the general’s letter, a White House official said: “We look forward to submitting a plan and working with Congress to identify a path to change current law and proceed to close Guantanamo.”

A week before the general’s letter was sent, Inside the Ring revealed that Mr. Obama was planning to ignore the legal restriction, claiming the law infringed his constitutional powers as commander in chief.

The Pentagon was planning to build a new wing at the civilian maximum-security prison near Florence, Colorado, for 59 of the most dangerous Gitmo detainees. A total of 103 currently are being held, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has begun speeding up the release of detainees, sending some to foreign countries.

In January, two Yemeni detainees were sent to Ghana, and the transfer set off a political backlash in the African nation. Members of both the ruling and opposition political parties criticized Ghanian President John Dramani Mahama for accepting the Yemenis. Some officials claimed the transfer violated a 2008 counterterrorism law.

The opposition New Patriotic Party vowed to send the detainees back to the United States if the party wins this year’s presidential election.

“Accepting ex-Guantanamo Bay prisoners is wrong and dangerous,” NPP Deputy General Secretary Nana Obiri Boahen told the local Ghanaweb news outlet. “There is no way NPP will accept them if it were in power.”

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