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Nov. 29, 2018
Notes from the Pentagon

U.S.-China deal at G-20 prompts fears
China specialists in and out of government are increasingly worried that President Trump will make major concessions to China during the Group of 20 economic summit in Argentina this week.

The concerns were amplified by comments Tuesday by Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, who said Mr. Trump believes there is a good chance a deal will be reached on the trade war with the Chinese.

The main fear is that China will make promises to curb intellectual property theft and other unfair trade practices in exchange for the U.S. president’s easing of tariffs on Chinese exports.

Many China hawks say any promises from Beijing will be worthless. They note several cases of Chinese duplicity: President Xi Jinping’s promises not to militarize disputed islands in the South China Sea; fuel transfers in violation of U.N. sanctions against North Korea; and Mr. Xi’s 2015 promise to halt the practice of government economic cyberespionage.

The last unfulfilled promise was bolstered by an updated report by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. “This update shows that China has not fundamentally altered its unfair, unreasonable and market-distorting practices that were the subject of the March 2018 report on our Section 301 investigation.” Mr. Lighthizer said.

The March report accused China of engaging in massive theft of U.S. intellectual property as part of a multiyear strategic program.

Mr. Kudlow said Mr. Xi is entering the meeting with Mr. Trump Saturday from a weaker position. While the U.S. economy is humming, China is “in a slump” economically, he said.

“The president said there’s a good possibility that we can make a deal, and he is open to it,” he told reporters at the White House.

However, the White House economic adviser added that before a deal can be reached, the Chinese must agree to greater “fairness and reciprocity” on trade. That will include resolving issues related to China’s intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers from U.S. companies, a reduction in trade barriers and addressing U.S. concerns regarding state ownership for Chinese companies overseas.

Mr. Kudlow noted that if Mr. Xi does not give in on these issues, the president is “perfectly happy” to keep the current $200 billion in tariffs and increase tariffs by another $267 billion in the coming months. “That’s not a certainty, but that’s the schedule,” he said.

Other U.S. government sources say Mr. Xi is becoming increasingly desperate to end U.S. tariffs that are having a harsh effect on the world’s second-largest economy.

China’s collective leadership harbors an almost superstitious belief that continuing expansion of the Chinese economy is needed to guarantee the Communist Party’s continued rule. Similarly, they fear any economic decline will bring political instability and what the Chinese call the loss of the “mandate of heaven” that in the past was a sign the emperor will be overthrown.

Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats disclosed new findings this week outlining how Russia violated the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF.

“Our bottom line: We assess that Russia began the covert development of an intermediate-range, ground-launched cruise missile designated 9M729 probably by the mid-2000s,” Mr. Coats said. “The 9M729 has a conventional and nuclear warhead capability.”

The missile was built by the Novator Design Bureau and closely resembles other missiles built by the bureau, including the short-range Iskander ballistic missiles.

The illegal cruise missile, which the Pentagon calls the SSC-8, was first flight-tested in the late 2000s. By 2015, it had been fired successfully from both road-mobile and fixed launchers.

The Russian flight test program was carried out in ways that were intended to disguise the missile tests as well as the weapon’s capabilities, Mr. Coats said. For example, the Russians used a loophole in the INF treaty that allows firing a banned INF missile from fixed launchers, such as those on ships.

To hide the missile’s capabilities, the first tests were conducted to treaty-permitted ranges from a fixed launcher. Later tests were conducted to ranges under treaty limits from mobile launchers.

“By putting the two types of tests together, Russia was able to develop a missile that flies to the intermediate ranges prohibited by the INF Treaty and launches from a ground-mobile platform,” Mr. Coats said.

For the past five years, the U.S. government has repeatedly sought Russian explanations for the illegal missile, receiving only blanket denials, the DNI said.

“When confronted about treaty noncompliance, Russia’s response over five years has been consistent: Deny any wrongdoing, demand more information in an effort to determine how the United States detected the violation, and issue false counter-accusations that the United States is violating the treaty,” Mr. Coats said.

Once the designator of the missile was disclosed to the Russians, Moscow switched to acknowledging its existence but denying that the missile could travel to treaty-limited ranges.

Mr. Coats said the missile is part of Russian threats to Europe.

“We believe that Russia probably wants to be unconstrained by the INF Treaty as it modernizes its military with precision-strike missiles that we assess are designed to target critical European military and economic infrastructure, and thereby be in position to coerce NATO allies,” he said.

“These relatively low-cost and survivable capabilities give Russia more options to strike allied military targets and populations without consuming Russia’s inventory of strategic offensive weapons and theater-strike resources such as sea-launched cruise missiles.”

Additionally, Russian stonewalling was used to buy time in constraining the United States from developing countermeasures.

As of late this year, Russia has deployed “multiple battalions” of the SSC-8 that “pose a direct conventional and nuclear threat against most of Europe and parts of Asia,” Mr. Coats said.

Under recent legislation, the Pentagon has been charged with developing options to deal with the INF violation, including developing U.S. ground-launched intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

Internal documents from North Korea reveal that the regime of Kim Jong-un is preparing the population to withstand a nuclear electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, attack.

The Daily NK, a South Korean publication founded and staffed by many North Korean defectors, reported Nov. 23 on an internal document explains how an EMP attack works and that they are used in nuclear strikes.

The document states that a nuclear EMP attack “if the weapon explodes 30 to 100 kilometers above the ground, electronic machines and devices are severely damaged or their electricity cables are destroyed beyond repair.”

The document also warns that EMP attacks are widely viewed as an important method to attack enemy forces.

The news outlet noted that some experts say the distribution of EMP information was contained in propaganda materials given to North Korean farms and is a way to emphasize Pyongyang will not give up its nuclear arms.

A study recently released by the congressional Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack warned: “Nuclear EMP attack is part of the military doctrines, plans and exercises of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran for a revolutionary new way of warfare against military forces and civilian critical infrastructures by cyber, sabotage and EMP.”

In September 2017, North Korean state media revealed for the first time that the regime plans to use EMP attacks for its nuclear arsenal.

The ruling Workers’ Party party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, stated that “the strong electromagnetic pulse generated from nuclear bomb explosions between [18.6 miles and 62 miles] above the ground can severely impair electronic devices, electric machines, and electromagnetic grids, or destroy electric cables and safety devices.”

The article was published days after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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