November 13, 2000
Beijing's spies gain access to secrets
'Panda huggers' tilt U.S. policy
Missteps and appeasement by the U.S. government helped China develop into a dangerous global power, according to "The China Threat: How the People's Republic Targets America" (Regnery), a new book by Bill Gertz, national security reporter for The Washington Times. In the first of three excerpts, he details the hunt for Chinese spies burrowed deep inside the U.S. government.
fall like a thunderbolt.
-- Sun Tzu
Ancient Chinese strategist
In the early 1990s, the FBI came across evidence that amounted to a counterspy's worst nightmare: Classified reports showed communist China was running several ``assets'' - spies, in the vernacular - who operated clandestinely inside the U.S. government.
One spy, however, was different from the others. He didn't work for just any agency. He had burrowed deep inside the U.S. intelligence community, meaning that the People's Republic of China had access to vital secrets.
The information was revealed to FBI counterintelligence agents in highly sensitive communications intercepts between the Chinese Embassy in Washington and Chinese intelligence officers in Beijing. The intercepts suggested the agent was supplying the Chinese with classified defense information.
The spy's code name was ``Ma'' - Chinese for ``horse.''
A Chinese government official who defected to the United States
after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 also told U.S. intelligence that China had successfully developed five to 10 clandestine sources of information here.
The defector said these agents were known as ``Dear Friends'' of
China. And one had access to the most sensitive U.S. intelligence data, known as Top Secret-Sensitive Compartmented Information, or SCI.
FBI counterintelligence agents' search for this Chinese ``mole'' led to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Pentagon's intelligence arm. A key suspect emerged: Ronald Montaperto.
At the time, Mr. Montaperto was a senior DIA analyst specializing in ``estimates,'' or analyses, of matters related to China and East Asia.
His job required making official contacts with Chinese government and military officials. In Washington, that meant defense attaches posted to the Chinese Embassy.
Chinese defense attaches are officers who work for the military
intelligence department of the People's Liberation Army's General Staff. One was PLA Maj. Gen. Yu Zhenghe, the air attache, who had developed a close relationship with Mr. Montaperto - close enough to be invited to his wedding in 1990.
WARNINGS BY DEFECTORS
This hunt for a Chinese mole was rare for the FBI. Most of the
other moles uncovered inside the U.S. government during the 1980s, in what became known as the ``Decade of the Spy,'' were spies for the Soviet Union. There was one exception: A Chinese intelligence officer who defected to the United States in 1985 identified a Chinese language specialist for the U.S. government as a spy.
The defector was Yu Qiangsheng, a senior intelligence officer in the Ministry of State Security. Mr. Yu had extensive access to information
about Chinese intelligence operations and agents. It was Mr. Yu who first
put a CIA counterspy on to Larry Wu-Tai Chin, the Chinese language
specialist, who worked for the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service. The service publishes translations of foreign news publications and broadcasts.
Mr. Yu, who was resettled in the United States, remains under
federal protection. He fears for his life because of Beijing agents.
Mr. Chin eventually was unmasked. He had burrowed within the CIA for about 30 years, passing valuable political intelligence to Beijing. He was a rare catch, but before he could be interrogated thoroughly for ``damage assessment,'' he committed suicide in his jail cell.
After the bloody military crackdown on protesters in Beijing's
Tiananmen Square, several other Chinese intelligence officers defected, determined to help the United States defeat the Communist government. Two had worked inside the Chinese Embassy in Washington.
The defectors' information helped to confirm and update what Mr. Yu had provided years earlier. They explained the care with which Chinese intelligence contacted and serviced its clandestine agents. For instance, intelligence officers never met their agents inside the United States
Because the FBI was considered too good at catching spies. It was safer to meet abroad, preferably in China.
These defectors had access to intelligence reports - sent from the
embassy to Ministry of State Security headquarters in China - that revealed that Chinese intelligence had recruited several agents who were referred to as ``Dear Friends.'' The Dear Friends were rewarded for valuable intelligence with paid trips to China, business opportunities there and prestige-building access to senior Chinese officials.
From their knowledge of the Chinese Embassy's intelligence cables, the defectors were able to tell U.S. intelligence debriefers about details China obtained from the Dear Friends. The U.S. counterspies were troubled that large amounts of extremely sensitive military intelligence was being provided to China.
INTERROGATING A SUSPECT
Based on the defectors' testimony, the FBI began a major espionage probe.
The bureau came up with a list of 12 suspects that fit the profile of the
Dear Friend with access to U.S. military secrets.
During systematic ``interviews'' of each suspect, FBI agents met
with Mr. Montaperto in late 1991 or early 1992. At the time, he was chief of DIA's estimates branch for China, a job he held from September 1989 until his departure in February 1992. He had joined DIA as an analyst in October 1981 and worked his way up.
Intelligence intercepts of Chinese government communications
gathered by the National Security Agency and supplied to the FBI later revealed that one of the most important agents being run by Chinese intelligence was code-named Ma.
FBI agents eventually confronted Mr. Montaperto during what the bureau called ``hostile interrogations'' over the course of three meetings. They asked bluntly whether he had passed classified intelligence information to China's intelligence service.
No, Mr. Montaperto replied. He said any contacts with Chinese
intelligence were authorized. He did conceded to the DIA that he knew Gen. Yu, the Chinese intelligence officer.
The FBI cleared Mr. Montaperto, though some counterintelligence officials still suspected he was Ma but couldn't prove it. The matter was put to rest conclusively, Mr. Montaperto said.
``I can honestly say they looked me in the eye and said, `We don't think you're a spy,' '' he said of the meetings with FBI agents.
But soon after the investigation, Mr. Montaperto left the DIA. In an interview with this reporter, he said the FBI probe had nothing to do with his departure. As for his friendship with Gen. Yu, he said: ``One does not have friends with Chinese officials'' - meaning his contacts were strictly
``Did General Yu attend your wedding?'' this reporter asked.
``Yes,'' Mr. Montaperto said.
It was a relatively small wedding, he said, because it was his
second marriage. He said he invited Gen. Yu and other Chinese officials because he thought it would be a good experience for them.
Hanging on the wall inside Mr. Montaperto's office was a large
scroll of Chinese calligraphy. It contained the characters ``horse dragon virtue,'' which when spoken in Mandarin sound like ``Montaperto.'' A second set of characters on the scroll are Chinese for ``war horse.''
The scroll is signed by a Chinese intelligence officer, who, like Yu Zhenghe, was an attache at the Chinese Embassy in Washington when Mr. Montaperto received the scroll as a gift. Mr. Montaperto says a student in Shanghai gave it to him.
A PANDA HUGGER?
The FBI never found the clandestine spy known as Ma. The bureau did uncover several Dear Friends, but did not seek prosecution. The FBI was hamstrung by the limited details provided by the former Chinese intelligence officers, who had seen the cables but did not have hard copies.
One Chinese agent was a Chinese-American employee at a U.S. defense contractor in Northern Virginia. Although he was not prosecuted, his access to classified information was cut off.
Mr. Montaperto next went to work at the Pentagon's National Defense University at Fort McNair, a scenic base overlooking the Potomac River in Southwest Washington. He became a ``social science analyst'' with the university's Institute for National Strategic Studies, a think tank for
Mr. Montaperto's biography as posted on the university's Internet site contains only four sentences and makes no mention of his DIA experience. It states only that he is a China affairs specialist: ``Currently he is defining strategies and policies for managing future U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific region.''
Because the FBI could not prove its suspicions, Mr. Montaperto was allowed to retain his top-secret security clearance. But he does not have the same access to intelligence information as he had at DIA.
Gen. Yu, meanwhile, remains one of China's most important
intelligence officers. He works for Gen. Xiong Guangkai, the PLA's deputy chief of staff for intelligence.
According to one U.S. national security official, Gen. Xiong
returned to the United States in 1996 during the Taiwan Strait crisis and tried to meet Mr. Montaperto. The crisis was prompted by test firings of Chinese missiles near Taiwan; the United States dispatched two aircraft carrier battle groups to the region.
Mr. Montaperto's primary job at the government's National Defense University is to oversee the China portion of an annual ``Strategic
Assessment,'' to speak on China policy around the world and to organize an
occasional conference on China. His pronounced pro-China view plays down that nation's military capabilities, specifically its development of
strategic and conventional forces.
But Mr. Montaperto says he is no ``panda hugger,'' using the
derogatory term China specialists at the Pentagon employ for soft-liners.
``For some people, I will always be considered a panda hugger,'' he added.
When Congress ordered creation of a National Defense University clearinghouse for intelligence on the People's Liberation Army, Mr. Montaperto presented the plan to the Pentagon. It called for hiring 33
specialists, opening a large office in Southwest and spending $4.5 million a
At first the Pentagon rejected the plan because it appeared to
promote military-to-military contacts with the PLA rather than provide useful information about the strategy and direction of the Chinese military.
The Clinton administration already had dramatically increased
meetings and exchanges with Chinese military leaders, which the Chinese exploited to develop intelligence. Many in the Pentagon had had enough of that, and senior officials objected to Mr. Montaperto's appointment as director of the new center. But the university named him director anyway.
The importance of the center was highlighted when Mr. Clinton
opposed the requirement to set it up.
By mandating the center and reports on China's military buildup,
Congress assumes ``an outcome that is far from foreordained - that China is bent on becoming a military threat to the United States,'' the president said in signing a $289 billion defense bill in October 1999. ``I believe we should
not make it more likely that China will choose this path by acting as if the
decision has already been made.''
Yet the president's policies and those of the soft-liners who
refused to recognize the nature of the People's Republic of China had done more to increase the danger from China than any of the skeptics in Congress who believed more should be done to learn about the Communist regime's military intentions.
Mr. Montaperto's minimizing of the threat is at one with Chinese
military policy, which involves deception - preventing the U.S. ``hegemon'' from recognizing China's emerging power until it is greater, at least regionally, than that of the United States.
The late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said China must avoid
provoking a conflict with the United States until China has the military, economic and political power to win.
In the words of Mr. Deng: ``Hide brightness; nourish obscurity.''
Or as the official translation in Beijing put it, ``Bide our time and build up our capabilities.''
Chinese military writings predict a ``dangerous decade'' - when that nation faces a strategic checkmate - between 2020 and 2030. By 2020, the United States will not be able to ignore China's growing might. But China's military and strategic planners fear their country will not be powerful enough to take on the United States until 2030.
What China wanted was three more decades of Clinton-style
``engagement,'' a policy that downplays Chinese military capabilities, encourages decreasing U.S. defense spending and gives China major technical and financial boosts.
Chinese officials view certain specialists in the United States as
important outlets for Beijing's views. Many of these China specialists are
current or former government officials.
Unlike the thousands of political scientists who specialize in
European and Russian affairs, the China experts who specialize in international security and foreign affairs could fit in a large conference room. And most of them communicate via Internet discussion groups, a major target of influence exerted by the Chinese government.
Take ``Chinasec.'' Every morning, a group of about 100 high-level U.S. policy-makers and intelligence officials receives e-mail postings as part of this Internet discussion group, whose innocuous-sounding name stands for ``China security.''
The informal electronic gathering includes some of the most
important China policy-makers in the U.S. government, including the Pentagon's desk officer for China matters, Col. John Corbett. The group is decidedly pro-China and often criticizes news articles - in particular this reporter's work for The Washington Times - that explore Chinese weapons sales to rogue states or espionage against the United States.
For instance, when The Times reported on the critical views of China held by Condoleeza Rice, a key foreign policy adviser to Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush, Chinasec swung into action. The e-mail network adopted the standard posture of the Clinton administration: spin. It dismissed the article as exaggerated and the work of a ``nonexpert.''
Chinasec's on-line discussion group is secret, but not in the sense of that term denoted by the U.S. government classification. Most of Chinasec's participants hold high-level security clearances. At least 10 CIA officials are members.
Chinasec is part of an informal but powerful network of current and former officials, academics and other China experts who exert a major influence on U.S. policies toward China.
THE LITMUS TEST
The ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu wrote that ``supreme
excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.''
The view of China presented by these pro-Beijing specialists is not manufactured by the Chinese Communist Politburo, but it serves the
Politburo's strategy. The key theme of the propaganda directed abroad is
simple: China is not a threat.
The theme is central to the Chinese Communist Party's overt and
covert influence efforts. It is the litmus test for those experts that Beijing
labels ``Friends of China.'' And it was a constant refrain of the Clinton
Despite the soft-line approach, a public opinion poll last year showed that Mr. Clinton's policy of engagement had not convinced the majority of the American people that China is a benign power.
The results of the Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, published in September 1999, indicate that 60 percent to 80 percent consider China to be an ``adversary,'' not a strategic partner.
November 14, 2000
Clinton critic says he was targeted
Uncovered spying on nukes by China
Missteps and appeasement by the U.S. government helped China develop into a dangerous global power, according to "The China Threat: How the People's Republic Targets America" (Regnery), a new book by Bill Gertz, national security reporter for The Washington Times. In the second of three excerpts, he examines the case of an Energy Department official who was punished for exposing Chinese theft of nuclear secrets.
ancient Chinese strategist
Two FBI agents confronted Notra Trulock in his Falls Church town
house. The tone of their questioning was hostile. ``Do you have classified
information in the house?'' one agent asked.
For the former counterintelligence chief at the Energy Department, it was the ultimate insult. Mr. Trulock was being accused of disclosing classified information improperly in a manuscript he had submitted to the CIA for publication in its journal, Studies in Intelligence.
Instead of publishing the manuscript, the CIA referred it to the FBI for investigation - which is why the agents were in Mr. Trulock's home on this hot Friday evening on July 14.
When he asked to see a search warrant, the agents said they didn't need one. They said they had the permission of the property owner, Mr. Trulock's
friend Linda Conrad, who worked in the Energy Department's intelligence
One agent went into a bedroom, started up a desktop computer used by
Trulock and downloaded the contents of its hard drive to a disk.
For more than an hour, the agents asked accusatory questions about
classified information. He told them the truth: He had none.
``Screwed, blued and tattooed,'' is how Mr. Trulock later described
incident, which came only days after his abrupt dismissal by defense
contractor TRW Inc. - a move he is convinced was the work of political
``This is what happens to whistle-blowers who speak truth to power
Clinton administration,'' he told this reporter.
In truth, Mr. Trulock had submitted the manuscript - the same one
by the FBI - to the Energy Department for security review. But the
department had declined even to look at it.
The FBI raid on his home was harassment for his role in exposing one
the most damaging espionage cases in American history: He had uncovered
Chinese espionage in the heart of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.
Chinese spies had scored a major coup; they had walked off with
information on how to build Chinese versions of every warhead in the U.S.
nuclear arsenal. And the spying continues today.
FBI Director Louis Freeh authorized the Trulock investigation in
consultation with Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, one of President
Clinton's closest advisers.
Mr. Trulock suspected that they singled him out because the
journal National Review had just published a shorter version of his
manuscript. The article was highly critical of the Clinton administration's
utter failure to aggressively pursue Chinese spying.
The administration wasn't interested in catching spies. Its highest
priority was repressing critics, especially those in U.S. intelligence who
had exposed the deception and politicization within the national security
community under Mr. Clinton.
Mr. Trulock had been a major target ever since he quit the Energy
Department after being pressured into taking a meaningless job and having
judgment on intelligence questioned by an inspector general's report that
went to great lengths to cover up the entire Chinese espionage debacle.
CHINA STEALS THE KEYS
The story actually began 18 years ago when the telephone rang at the
of Gwo Bao Min, a former nuclear weapons engineer at Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory. It was Dec. 2, 1982.
The caller was Wen Ho Lee, another scientist who designed nuclear
at a second Department of Energy laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M.
The FBI, which was investigating Mr. Min, intercepted the
Mr. Min was in trouble. He had been fired from his job at
under suspicion of passing nuclear weapons secrets to China. Mr. Lee
guessed it must have been someone in China who revealed Mr. Min's identity
to the FBI, and he promised to uncover the informant.
Mr. Min never was prosecuted and today lives in Northern
the exchange between the two men would be at the heart of the most damaging
espionage case in U.S. history.
China had stolen the keys to unlocking the secrets of America's
arsenal. This was more harmful to national security than the case of Julius
and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of passing nuclear secrets to Moscow
in the early years of the Cold War.
A grand jury indicted Mr. Lee in December on 59 felony counts of
nuclear secrets from Los Alamos computers onto portable tapes. He was
released after nine months in jail when his attorneys reached a deal with
federal prosecutors. In the deal, Mr. Lee pleaded guilty to a single count
of mishandling classified information and agreed to describe under oath why
he downloaded nuclear secrets and what he did with the computer tapes.
The first hints about the extent of the danger came Sept. 25, 1992,
the ground shook beneath a test site for nuclear weapons in China about 120
miles north of Lop Nur, a town in the remote northwestern province of
The explosion was the first successful test of a small, compact
similar in design to the U.S. W-88. The fact that China had succeeded in
building so small a warhead so quickly shocked many officials inside the
A spy working secretly in China for U.S. intelligence revealed
details about the 1992 test. In short, China had made a quantum leap in the
killing power of its nuclear forces. The spy said the Chinese had set off a
relatively small, 150-kiloton explosion using an oval-shaped core. The shape
of the core was the tip-off to analysts that China had discovered one of the
most important secrets about U.S. nuclear weapons.
And the Chinese had succeeded in doing so through espionage. The
occurred under several administrations. But the magnitude of the problem
kept secret and only became public in the late 1990s.
CHINA'S NUCLEAR BUILDUP
The official reaction to the espionage - or, really, the lack of a
response - was the result of a pro-China policy that caused serious damage
U.S. national security interests. The inaction sent a signal to any would-
be nuclear power: U.S. nuclear secrets are up for grabs.
Under the so-called ``engagement'' policy of President Clinton, the
administration ignored, minimized and ultimately covered up Chinese spying.
Nothing would be allowed to interfere with the deliberate policy of
pretending China poses no threat to the United States.
The story of how Chinese nuclear spies stole nuclear warhead secrets
about the failure of the U.S. government to protect long-term national
China today is engaged in a major buildup of strategic nuclear
targeted at a single nation: the United States.
The buildup includes two new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic
missiles, the Dong Feng-31 and the Dong Feng-41; at least four new strategic
nuclear missile submarines; and a host of exotic, high-technology weapons
such as lasers capable of shooting down or blinding satellites. The buildup
also includes computer-based information warfare designed to launch
attacks on everything from electrical power to the computer networks used to
keep commercial aircraft flying safely.
Intelligence analysts working at the Department of Energy's Los
National Laboratory wrote a classified analysis that said the nuclear device
tested near Lop Nur in 1992 was shaped differently from any other known
Chinese warhead. The device looked like an American warhead, and the
scientists were concerned that the Chinese had obtained strategic secrets.
In April 1995, the Los Alamos analysts sent their classified
Notra Trulock, a political scientist by training who had worked at Los
Alamos and who was director of intelligence for the Department of Energy.
Four years later, Mr. Trulock would be hounded out of the department for
efforts to expose Chinese nuclear spying.
Chinese espionage efforts against the weapons laboratories were not
``But we were beginning to uncover the outlines of a broad and very
successful Chinese intelligence assault against our nuclear weapons
laboratories,'' Mr. Trulock said. ``These labs are the repositories of the
secrets underlying the U.S. nuclear deterrent, accumulated through decades
of U.S. nuclear weapons experience at the cost of billions of dollars.''
Mr. Trulock explained that he had tried to alert U.S. officials,
from his immediate superiors at Energy all the way to White House National
Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger. Their responses were always
``appropriate,'' he said, but their actions never matched their expressions
ASSESSING THE DAMAGE
The Clinton administration viewed Chinese nuclear spying as a mere
inconvenience, since the only strategy was to ``engage'' China's communist
leaders - a policy that was ridiculed by China's communist leaders as the
abject weakness of a decaying Western society.
``If our assessments of their perspective on their deterrent in the
'80s were correct, I think the Chinese now are moving much closer to having
what they consider to be a credible deterrent,'' Mr. Trulock said. ``And if
they think the credibility of their deterrent is solid again, then that to
seems to open up a lot of other options for them, like Taiwan. The whole
behind their deterrent is to keep us from intervening in the achievement of
China's regional objectives.''
Energy Department intelligence analysts learned that China had
U.S. secrets on at least seven of America's most modern thermonuclear
warheads. The damage was known to key officials in the Clinton White House,
the CIA and the Pentagon, but the information was kept hidden from the
to protect the policy of engagement.
It took a select congressional committee, formed in 1998 to
Chinese acquisition of U.S. missile technology, to bring the story into
The administration fought the committee for five months, trying to
release of classified intelligence information that exposed Chinese
espionage. But in the spring of 1999 the committee's report finally was
``The credentials of the scientists conducting the assessment, the
of the evidence and the quality of the technical judgments made for a
compelling case,'' Mr. Trulock said. ``Some of the nation's most
nuclear scientists participated in this work. Their contributions have
been recognized or acknowledged by their government.''
The CIA, supposedly the nation's premier intelligence service, was
``politicized'' in the debate over Chinese spying. Its analysts tried hard
play down, minimize and ignore the damage. The CIA even insisted that what
the Chinese obtained by espionage could have been obtained in other ways,
such as from leaks of classified information or from public documents.
But Mr. Trulock provided an inside account of the Chinese espionage
that showed otherwise. The real issue was not whether a damaging spy
had occurred, but how the White House managed to contain the political
fallout so that it touched anyone but the administration.
THE SPIN BEGINS
The White House went into its ``war room'' mode of media damage
James Kennedy, the White House lawyer who handled the president's
impeachment, was put on the China spying story.
The spin: Chinese spying was not the Clinton White House's fault; it
happened in the 1980s. To influence news reporters and their coverage, Mr.
Kennedy emphasized that the story was ``old news,'' and if anyone were to
it would be the Republicans who were in power then.
When the select committee's bipartisan report went public, the
administration privately - and falsely - warned the major television
that the report did not reflect the version based on classified
If the media ``went hard'' with the story, the White House promised it had
means to discredit the report.
So there was no story - or, at least, little criticism of the
``As the director of DOE [Department of Energy] intelligence, I was
talking head for the DOE group and bore most of the brunt of these
Mr. Trulock recalled. ``To his credit, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson
present me with a $10,000 bonus, but this didn't offset the fact that I had
been demoted, relegated to a meaningless job and eventually forced out of
department. Routine stuff for whistle-blowers in this administration.
''But I also came under media fire of the type normally reserved for
[independent counsel] Ken Starr or someone involved in the president's
scandals. I read that I was a `dangerous demagogue,' a `great impostor,'
`obsessed,' that my `style' was abrasive and a host of other epithets.
Reporters attributed a variety of motives to explain my involvement in this
case, including imputations of racism and xenophobia. This was pretty heavy
stuff for someone who has spent most of his career trying to stay out of the
``Of course, most of these allegations came from the very officials
DOE and the White House responsible for the cover-ups and stonewalling of
Congress, and who had fought so hard to kill any meaningful security reform
at the labs. Many of these were the perpetuators, if not the creators, of
the very security lapses that made Chinese espionage possible in the first
No good deed goes unpunished, as they say.
Notra Trulock had dared to challenge the pro-China policies of Bill
Clinton. He had spoken bluntly about the Chinese strategic nuclear threat
the United States. He had revealed China's decades of nuclear-related
espionage - and that the spying continues today.
November 15, 2000
China prepares for war with U.S. over Taiwan
Missiles targeted at American cities
By Bill Gertz
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Missteps and appeasement by the U.S. government helped China develop into a dangerous global power, according to "The China Threat: How the People's Republic Targets America" (Regnery), a new book by Bill Gertz, national security reporter for The Washington Times. In the third of three excerpts, he examines the growing danger of nuclear war between China and The United States over Taiwan.
time and strike in multiple waves.
-- PLA Col. Wang Benzhi, on missile strikes against Taiwan
``DSP reports five events from known ICBM bases in western China.''
airman's voice was tense but carried an air of nonchalance, a sign of
The airman was stationed inside a dimly lit command bunker nearly a
beneath Colorado's Cheyenne Mountain, along with 20 other airmen, soldiers
and sailors from the U.S. and Canadian militaries. This is headquarters
the North American Aerospace Defense Command, known as NORAD.
At NORAD, they think about the unthinkable 24 hours a day, seven
Closed to the outside world by huge steel doors designed to
nuclear attack, the bunker is where military personnel scan the globe from
computer terminals, looking for signs of missile launches. They depend on
infrared sensors around the world, primarily the constellation of satellites
with the nondescript name of Defense Support Program - or DSP, as the airman
The five ``hot pops'' he reported as picked up by satellite over
the first sign of trouble. Less than a minute later came more bad news:
. . . we have multiple missile launches. Stand by for target report.''
A few seconds later, the intelligence officer on duty broadcast
details: ``Intel indicates probable launch of five ICBMs from China. Intel
assesses this to be combat against North America.''
It was Sept. 3, 1999, and the Chinese missile attack was only an
exercise. But it was a sobering reminder of how the strategic nuclear
against the United States has not gone away with the demise of the Soviet
A nuclear war with China over its dispute with Taiwan is a real
And even though the Clinton administration went to great lengths to ignore
it, that danger is growing.
Shortly after the beginning of the simulated Chinese nuclear combat,
red lines emanating from western China streaked across the computer map in
the command center. Each line represented the flight path of a Chinese
intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, headed directly for the United
China's 24 silo-based missiles are old by American standards. But
can hit targets more than 8,000 miles away and are the backbone of China's
strategic nuclear force. The missiles are based on the design of America's
first generation of missiles, which China obtained from a defecting U.S.
Each of the CSS-4s carries a huge, 5-megaton warhead with the
of 5 million tons of TNT - enough to blow up an entire city. NORAD's
computerized attack-warning network plotted the targets of the incoming
and they appeared as dots on the giant map: Seattle, Colorado Springs (site
of the Cheyenne Mountain complex), Chicago, New York and Washington.
Air Force Col. Allen Baker, NORAD's director of operations,
that confirmation of Chinese missile launches would be followed by a call to
the White House.
``At this point, I'd be telling the president how many minutes until
Washington, D.C., is gone,'' Col. Baker said.
Flight time from China to the capital: about 35 minutes. Asked
the U.S. military had the means to shoot down the incoming missiles, Col.
Baker said, ``Absolutely nothing.''
THE `DETARGETING' LIE
A national missile defense system to counter a limited attack such
simulated Chinese strike - or an attack by a single North Korean missile -
is being developed but may not be deployed for several years, Col. Baker
So why track the missiles?
``We're tracking them so we can tell our commanders exactly what is
happening so they can figure out what their response is going to be,'' he
said. ``If they take out Washington, D.C., do we want to take out Beijing?
don't know. That's their decision.''
NORAD's 1999 missile exercise also showed that the U.S. military
not afford to give up its strategic nuclear deterrent, despite efforts by
Clinton administration to pretend it no longer is needed.
Only months earlier, the president had announced that U.S.
nuclear missiles no longer would be targeted on China after the Communist
regime promised to ``detarget'' its missiles and not aim them at American
On June 27, 1998, Chinese President Jiang Zemin appeared at a news
conference after meetings with Mr. Clinton in Beijing. He announced:
``President Clinton and I have decided that China and the United States will
not target the strategic nuclear weapons under their respective control at
each other. This demonstrates to the entire world that China and the United
States are partners, not adversaries.''
As with so many other statements by the Chinese Communist leader,
President Jiang lied. The proof arrived in a form common during the highly
politicized Clinton administration. It was kept hidden from public view as
part of a classified intelligence assessment. On Dec. 2, 1998, the
Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) reported that that the Chinese
People's Liberation Army conducted exercises that included simulated nuclear
missile attacks on Taiwan and U.S. military forces in the region.
The exercises, which ran from late November to early December,
road-mobile CSS-5 medium-range missiles spotted by U.S. spy satellites as
they moved up and down roads along China's coast. The DIA report, based on
sensitive intelligence gathered by U.S. spying systems, also cited
activities by silo-based CSS-2s.
``They were doing mock missile attacks on our troops,'' said one
who saw the report.
A DIRECT THREAT
Analysts determined that the mock nuclear attacks not only were
against Taiwan, but against about 37,000 U.S. Army troops based in South
Korea and 47,000 Marines in Japan, including 25,000 on the island of
A White House official, confirming the intelligence report, said
weapons systems had ``never been pointed our way before.'' But the official
sought to downplay the threat by noting the age of the weapons (the CSS-2
first was deployed in 1971, the CSS-5 in the 1980s).
The important point missed by the White House - intentionally - was
the missile exercises directly threatened our troops. They also provided
evidence that Mr. Jiang's promise about detargeting was hollow.
Or was it? The Chinese president had referred to ``strategic''
weapons. Apologists for Beijing argued that the CSS-2s and CSS-5s
technically may not be in the same category as longer-range ICBMs.
The Air Force's National Air Intelligence Center dispels that
its annual report on ``Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threats,'' the center
stated that medium-range missiles ``are strategic systems'' armed with
One element of the exercises that surprised DIA analysts was the
of ``obscurants'' -smoke and particle-filled clouds dispersed around the
mobile missiles to shield them from U.S. precision-strike weapons.
The Chinese missiles were seen ready for launch on mobile truck
although none was fired. Pentagon officials concluded that the simulated
attacks were a sign that China is prepared to go to war with the United
States over Taiwan.
In August, the Air Force moved several dozen air-launched cruise
to the island of Guam, perhaps in anticipation of a conflict over Taiwan.
The PLA's 40 liquid-fueled CSS-2s, with ranges of about 1,922 miles,
being replaced in most regions of China with the more advanced, solid-
propellant CSS-5s, with a maximum range of 1,333 miles.
Richard Fisher, a specialist on the Chinese military, believes the
may interpret the June 1998 detargeting pledge to exclude shorter-range
nuclear missiles and include only long-range ICBMs.
``Chinese doctrine puts special emphasis on missile forces,
mobile forces for obtaining surprise and using a wide variety of current and
future nuclear and non-nuclear warheads,'' Mr. Fisher said.
Taiwan is a mountainous island about the size of West Virginia.
off the southern coast of China, it has a population of about 22 million.
Unlike its archenemy, Taiwan is a thriving, multiparty democracy. It also
a major international trading power.
Taiwan's military includes about 430,000 soldiers equipped with
obtained primarily from the United States. But U.S. arms sales to Taiwan
were cut back sharply by the Clinton administration.
Meanwhile, China has dramatically increased its military forces over
past decade. In October 1998, a DIA report labeled ``Secret'' outlined a
buildup of short-range ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan.
Until 1998, missile deployment had been modest and limited to a
of CSS-6 missiles at Leping. What the DIA uncovered was a Chinese plan to
accumulate 650 missiles by 2005.
According to the DIA, China had 150 missiles near Taiwan in 1998 and
intended to add about 50 new missiles a year. The report said the new
missiles include two versions of the short-range, ballistic CSS-7 - Mod 1,
with a range of 350 kilometers, and Mod 2, with a range of 530 kilometers.
Last Dec. 5, the DIA issued another secret report updating the
buildup. The conclusion was not good news.
``The DIA believes there are at least 40 CSS-7 missiles in Chinese
bases near Taiwan,'' said one intelligence official familiar with the
``This gives China the ability to target Taiwan with little or no
The report stated that China's goal was to have 500 short-range
within range of Taiwan by 2005, allowing the PLA to target all of the
island's major military bases.
``They will be able to take Taiwan with little or no warning,'' the
said. The report identified a third missile base under construction along
China's coast near the town of Xianyou. Photographs by U.S. spy satellites
showed the layout of buildings and storage sheds was similar to that of the
missile brigade headquarters at Leping, base for CSS-6 missiles.
The report also identified a second CSS-7 base at Yongang, including
storage areas in tunnels. This was a sign that the Chinese were protecting
the systems against U.S. bombers equipped with precision-guided bombs and
Pentagon analysts viewed the buildup as ominous, since it showed
Beijing's intention was not to conduct aircraft or seaborne assaults but to
launch barrages of missiles. A Pentagon report to Congress made public in
June stated that Beijing views ballistic missiles - as well as ground- or
hugging cruise missiles - as ``potent military and political'' weapons
And another, internal Pentagon report obtained by this reporter
that the danger from the short-range missiles was growing.
``A large arsenal of highly accurate and lethal theater missiles
a `trump card,' a revolutionary departure from the PLA of the past,'' the
internal report said. ``The PLA's theater missiles and a supporting space-
based surveillance network are emerging not only as a tool of psychological
warfare but as a potentially devastating weapon of military utility.''
Even after this reporter wrote an article for The Washington Times
the intelligence on the missile buildup, President Clinton did not demand
that China stop the destabilizing deployments. Mr. Clinton, asked about
them at a news conference Dec. 8, said he had ``grave concerns'' about the
``China is modernizing its military in a lot of ways, but our policy
China is crystal clear. We believe there is one China,'' Mr. Clinton said.
The phrase ``one China'' meant that whatever happens, the
would stand with Beijing.
The dispute between the mainland and Taiwan should be resolved
dialogue and ``we oppose and would view with grave concern any kind of
action,'' the president said.
But Taiwan never has threatened the United States. Communist China
and its threats went almost unchallenged by the Clinton administration.
`NOT A WISE MOVE'
One of the most alarming statements appeared Feb. 28 in Liberation
Daily, the official organ of the PLA that reflects the views of Central
Military Commission Chairman Jiang Zemin and other senior leaders.
American intervention in a conflict between Taiwan and China would
``serious damage'' to U.S. national security, the newspaper said. It
in only slightly veiled language that China would resort to long-range
missile attacks against the United States.
``China is . . . a country that has certain abilities of launching
strategic counterattack and the capacity of launching a long-distance
strike,'' the newspaper said. ``It is not a wise move to be at war with a
country such as China, a point which the U.S. policy-makers know fairly
The threatening article was written by PLA Col. Zhu Chenghu, an
influential hard-liner who is deputy director of the Institute of National
Security Studies at the National Defense University in Beijing.
A war with China would force the United States to ``make a complete
withdrawal'' from East Asia similar to the loss in Vietnam, his article
The Pentagon was surprised by the harsh, anti-American tone of what
amounted to an official threat. But instead of criticizing China, Pentagon
spokesman Kenneth Bacon told reporters in a briefing that ``Chinese
does not include ``first-strike'' nuclear attacks.
``And there is nothing new in that article that changes that,'' he
The answer was misleading. The PLA commentary made no reference to
``first-strike'' attack, but to the use of nuclear weapons as a deterrent or
retaliation for intervention by U.S. conventional forces in a war between
Taiwan and China.
The Chinese missile threat to the United States reflected official
as revealed in an internal military document obtained by dissidents in
This reporter received a copy of the report, known as ``Document
Aug. 1, 1999, it is signed ``General Political Department of the People's
The DIA and CIA both have copies of Document 65, though the latter
certain whether it is a genuine leak or a deliberate disclosure. Defense
officials say the format is similar to that of secret materials delivered by
defecting Chinese officials. Document 65 declares that ``a most important
task'' of the Communist Party of China is reunification with Taiwan. All
military units must ``be well-prepared for the war based on the rapidly
changing relationships with Taiwan,'' it states.
That was the year Taipei declared it no longer was the government of
of China and thus no longer sought to take back forcibly what was lost
the civil war of the 1940s.
Document 65 discloses for the first time that the issue of Taiwan
not be allowed to ``drag on indefinitely.'' The document says the Chinese
military was given ``solid grounds for achieving reunification using
power'' because of Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui's remarks of July 9, 1999.
On that day, Mr. Lee declared that Taiwan ``has been a sovereign
since it was founded in 1912'' and called for relations with China on a
``special state-to-state'' basis. This was a challenge of Beijing's ``One
The document also states that the timing of reunification - peaceful
forceful - had been hampered by the United States. It adds that Europe
not join the United States in fighting a war with China.
`BETTER TO FIGHT NOW'
Document 65 reveals what Pentagon specialist Michael Pillsbury has
``dangerous misperceptions'' by China about the United States. It is just
these kinds of misperceptions that could lead to a war.
For instance, Document 65 contains the following alarming passage:
``Taking into account [the] possible intervention by the U.S., and
the development strategy of our country, it is better to fight now than in
the future - the earlier, the better. The reason being that, if worst [sic]
comes to worst, we will gain control of Taiwan before full deployment of the
''In this case, the only thing the U.S. can do is fight a war with
purpose of retaliation, which will be similar to the Gulf war against Iraq
the recent bombing of Yugoslavia as far as its operational objective is
considered, namely, to first attack from the sky and the sea our coastal
military targets, and then attack our vital civil facilities so as to force
us to accept its terms like Iraq and Yugoslavia.
``This is of course wishful thinking,'' the document goes on.
before completely destroying the attacking enemy forces from the sea and
their auxiliary bases which together constitute a threat to us, even if we
successfully carry out interception and control the sky, our military and
civil facilities will still incur some damages.''
Document 65 asserts that the U.S. military has not been tested in a
conflict with a large nation such as China and will become ``exhausted'' by
``It can be safely expected that once the U.S. launches an attack,
front line of the U.S. forces and their supporting bases will be exposed
within the range of our effective strikes. After the first strategic
the U.S. forces will be faced with weaponry and logistic problems,
us with opportunities for major offensives and [to] win large battles.''
As for nuclear war, Document 65 states, the Chinese military ``does
foresee'' a strategic nuclear exchange because the United States has shown
willingness to fight a massive conflict and suffer ``major losses'' over