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Sept. 13, 2018
Notes from the Pentagon

China promotes anti-Trump book
China’s government propaganda outlets are actively promoting the anti-President Trump book released this week by Washington Post writer Bob Woodward, called “Fear.”

Two days after excerpts of the book were published, major Chinese state-run propaganda outlets, including China Central Television (CCTV), ran extensive reports on the book on Sept. 6.

The book derides Mr. Trump as unhinged and claims there has been an administration coup d’etat by senior aides, who conspired against the president and blocked his policies.

CCTV produced five reports on its website, noting Mr. Trump’s reaction to the book and his suggestion, according to the book, to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile defense system to protect the United States.

“Watergate journalist’s new book infuriates Trump,” read another headline in CCTV, adding, “the White House is shaking.” The official Xinhua News Agency reported that the White House was “shaking” in fear over the book. The official People’s Daily reported similar White House fears and noted that Mr. Trump was infuriated by the book.

Then on Saturday, CCTV-4, the international channel with an estimated viewership of 65 million people, issued two on-air reports on the critical book. Another propaganda channel, CCTV-13 also reported on the book.

The China Daily, another Communist Party-affiliated outlet, reported on Sept. 5 that the book is “as deadly as a White House palace drama, forcing Trump to tweet seven times to ‘put out a fire.’”

An analysis of search engine traffic on Baidu, the Chinese search engine, revealed that web traffic on “Fear” surged during the early-September coverage. All the reports presented the book cover.

The CIA-led Open Source Enterprise, which translates foreign news reports, so far has ignored all the negative Chinese reporting on the anti-Trump book, according to a government source.

The main points of the broadcasts and web postings were that the book had revealed chaos and dysfunction in the White House as a result of Mr. Trump’s leadership style.

The Chinese also played up Mr. Woodward’s contention — denied by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis — that Mr. Trump ordered an airstrike to kill Syrian dictator Bashar Assad but was overruled.

The reports also noted that two now-departed White House advisers pilfered a document from Mr. Trump’s desk to prevent him from pulling out of a U.S.-South Korea free trade accord.

The theme behind the Chinese propaganda blitz is evidence in at least one reference in the reports to Mr. Woodward’s investigation of the Watergate scandal of the 1970s that led to President Nixon’s resignation. Chinese state media until recently have avoided criticism of Mr. Trump but have stepped up their propaganda against the president since the trade battle over tariffs heated up.

China is said to be working to undermine Mr. Trump by seeking Democratic victories in the upcoming midterm elections with the hope that House control will shift and a Democratic-majority House would proceed with impeachment.

The new book drew harsh denunciations from the president and key advisers.

“The Woodward book is a Joke — just another assault against me, in a barrage of assaults, using now disproven unnamed and anonymous sources,” Mr. Trump tweeted Monday.

“Many have already come forward to say the quotes by them, like the book, are fiction. Dems can’t stand losing. I’ll write the real book!”

The president insisted in another tweet that the White House is a “smooth running machine.”

“We are making some of the biggest and most important deals in our country’s history — with many more to come! The Dems are going crazy!” he tweeted.

Mr. Trump has held back from criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he frequently refers to as a friend.

However, in recent comments, the president has stepped up criticism of China for its role in undermining negotiations with North Korea on denuclearization.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said this week that he doubts Chinese participation in the massive Vostok-18 Russian military exercises in the Far East that kicked off Tuesday marks a step toward a Moscow-Beijing military alliance.

Mr. Mattis was asked if he was concerned about participation by the People’s Liberation Army, which sent around 3,000 troops and 900 vehicles to the war games. The secretary played down the significance.

“I think that nations act out of their interests,” Mr. Mattis told reporters on Tuesday. “I see little in the long term that aligns Russia and China.”

The exercises involve some 300,000 troops, 1,000 aircraft, 80 warships and 36,000 armored vehicles. They are the largest war games ever held by Russia and the biggest since the Soviet Union in 1981. On Wednesday, Russian Tu-95 Bear nuclear-capable bombers launched cruise missiles during the exercises, the official TASS news agency reported.

Chinese participation in the exercises signals a major shift. An earlier version of the exercise, Vostok-2010, included maneuvers of Russian forces that practiced against a national Chinese military attack in the vulnerable Far East.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Wu Qian said: “China’s participation is aimed at consolidating and further developing the comprehensive and strategic partnership of coordination between China and Russia, deepening practical and friendly cooperation between the two militaries, further enhancing the joint capabilities of the two militaries to respond to security threats.”

Col. Wu said the war games are not “targeted at any third party, nor it has anything to do with the regional situation.”

Chinese and Russian forces will operate under a joint command system and will practice mechanized defense, live-fire strike and counterattack training.

China’s Communist Party-affiliated newspaper Global Times attributed closer Russia-China ties to U.S. policies.

The outlet said Washington “has actually promoted China-Russia ties by strategically squeezing the two countries.”

The ground portion of the war games will be held in training sites north of Mongolia. Naval exercises will be held in the Sea of Japan and Bering Sea and Sea of Okhotsk.

The U.S. government has again blocked certification of a new Russian intelligence aircraft that conducts legal spying flights under the 1992 Open Skies Treaty.

The United States has not signed the certification of the Tu-214 aircraft “at this time,” according to White House National Security Council guidance language.

“This does not preclude the United States from certifying the new aircraft following further consultations in Washington,” the guidance said.

Rejection of the new aircraft was first reported Wednesday by Russia’s official military newspaper, Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star). The Tu-214 surveillance aircraft would conduct missions over the United States, Canada and Europe under the treaty.

Pentagon and U.S. intelligence officials say the Russian spy flights, using advanced sensors capable of seeing through clouds and some structures, would compromise military secrets.

Sergei Ryzhkov, head of the Russian Nuclear Risk Reduction Center, told Krasnaya Zvezda that the United States provided no explanation for the refusal to approve the aircraft.

“In breach of the Open Skies Treaty provisions, the head of the U.S. delegation refused to sign the final document, without giving any explanations or reasons, and citing direct instructions from Washington,” he said. “We insist that the U.S. side return to the Open Skies Treaty framework and demand that the current situation be explained with reference to the treaty’s provisions.”

A total of 72 experts from 23 states visited the Kubinka airfield near Moscow from Sept. 2 until Tuesday to examine the new Tu-214, which employs digital imaging equipment for Open Skies inspections. All visiting foreign delegations approved the aircraft except the United States, the Krasnaya Zvezda said.

The National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Trump last month contains a provision restricting implementation of the treaty.

Section 1242 prohibits the Pentagon from spending any funds on “arms control implementation” of the Open Skies accord until the president certifies to Congress that the administration has imposed countermeasures for Russian violations under Open Skies.

Specifically, the legislation blocks all funding that would allow voting or approval for “state parties to the treaty to certify infrared or synthetic aperture radar sensors.” That provision is directed at the radar and sensors on the Tu-214.

The legislation says funds can be used to approve the aircraft only if the defense secretary certifies that allowing the use of the new sensors would not undermine U.S. national security.

It also requires a report on the costs of countermeasures against Russian overflights using infrared and synthetic aperture radar sensors.

The report must assess the counterintelligence risks and vulnerabilities to Russian flights in the United States.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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