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February 17, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

China attacks QDR
China's government has been running a series of harsh commentaries criticizing the Pentagon for identifying China as a future military threat in its recently published Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).

The barrage began with the Feb. 7 comments of Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan, who characterized the QDR references to China as "interference" in Chinese internal affairs and the promotion of a new China military threat theory. He also said the report misleads U.S. public opinion. As a result, Mr. Kong said, China "made solemn representations with the United States" to protest the report.

The QDR contains no specific criticisms of China's military buildup other than pointing out that Beijing poses the greatest potential challenge to the U.S. military and is rapidly building up its military with little or no transparency or explanation.

The Chinese government-controlled press then began running a series of reports attacking the Pentagon report.

Chinese military analyst Wang Xinjun, of the Academy of Military Sciences, said U.S. opposition to China is based on four elements: to contain China and bolster U.S. military activities in Asia; to use China to strengthen the U.S. alliance with Japan and fragment East Asian regional cooperation; to block China from retaking Taiwan; and to create an enemy that will justify military spending.

The harsh Chinese statements contrast sharply with recent comments from senior U.S. military leaders, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Peter Pace, who have said publicly that they do not regard China as a threat and that the Pentagon wants good relations with the Chinese military.

China's political and military leaders have dismissed the soft-line comments as U.S. strategic deception designed to fool the Chinese, Pentagon officials told us.

No-nuke submarines
A Navy memorandum says four ballistic-missile submarines being converted to conventional-missile subs will not carry nuclear weapons.

The Feb. 3 memorandum states that "in general, it is U.S. policy not to deploy nuclear weapons aboard surface ships, naval aircraft, attack submarines or guided missile submarines."

It was the first official reference to the nuclear weapons status of four converted "boomers" as nuclear-armed ballistic-missile submarines are called. The submarines are being turned into conventionally armed cruise-missile submarines by next year. The nuclear-tipped Trident missiles on the submarines will be replaced with long-range land-attack cruise missiles such as the Tomahawk or advanced versions of it.

The memo from Vice Adm. J.G. Morgan, deputy chief of naval operations for information, plans and strategy, contains an update of the Navy regulation that prohibits all Navy personnel from discussing nuclear weapons on vessels or facilities.

The memo states that all tactical nuclear arms were removed from ships, attack submarines and naval aircraft by July 1992. However, the memo said "the president allowed for the storage of some remaining tactical nuclear weapons in secured central areas so that they could be made available, if necessary, in a future crisis."

The memo continues the Navy's policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence or absence of nuclear arms on Navy equipment or facilities. The policy is designed to deter other nuclear weapons states and to protect the security of the weapons.

The memo was obtained by the Federation of American Scientists and posted on their Nuclear Information Project Web site (

Former Iraqi Gen. Georges Sada, once a close adviser to Saddam Hussein, has sent a buzz through conservative circles by saying he has evidence that Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction to Syria before the U.S. invasion of March 2003.

He writes in his book, "Saddam's Secrets: How an Iraqi General Defied and Survived Saddam Hussein," that he talked with pilots who said they transported chemical weapons into neighboring Syria.

On its face, the account seemed to dovetail with the last report of Charles Duelfer, who headed the Iraq Survey Group, which scoured Iraq looking for weapons. Mr. Duelfer wrote that there were promising leads in proving that weapons did go to Syria, but he was unable to pursue them because of security concerns in a violent Iraq.

But we have learned that Mr. Sada's assertions are not among those promising leads. A source close to the now-disbanded Iraq Survey Group told us it investigated Mr. Sada's claims and found no basis.

"We were not able to find anything we could verify," the source said.

Tale of two panels
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, California Republican, has raised concerns that the Army may be violating policy by putting female soldiers in support units that embed with land combat units. He sponsored legislation requiring the Pentagon to file a report on whether the Army is violating the ban.

But his counterpart in the Senate is not concerned. When the issue arose at a hearing this week, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, looked at it from another angle.

"I just wanted to make sure that women are given opportunities to foster their careers," he said during a discussion with Army Secretary Francis Harvey and Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army chief of staff.

"They are," Mr. Harvey said.

NSC Asia director
White House National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley appears stuck with pro-China Asia director Dennis Wilder after two other candidates for the post backed out.

The latest to withdraw from consideration from the position of special assistant to the president for Asia affairs was James Shinn, who decided after he was not named to the post despite two interviews with Mr. Hadley that he did not want the post. Mr. Shinn will remain as a national intelligence officer for Asia on the National Intelligence Council, now within the office of Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte.

National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said he did not know about Mr. Shinn's withdrawal, but noted that Mr. Wilder will remain as "acting" director of the NSC staff Asia office.

The Pentagon's choice for the NSC post, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. John Allen, also backed out of the running. Gen. Allen decided to stay on as an aide to Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Richard Lawless, rather than move to the White House.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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