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March 5, 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

Chinese in Sudan
David Hale, an economist who specializes in Chinese affairs, said in a recent speech that China has deployed about 4,000 troops to southern Sudan. The troops are there to protect an oil pipeline, Mr. Hale said.

The Chinese presence was first disclosed by South African government officials who told Mr. Hale about the troops during a recent visit to South Africa.

Mr. Hale said the Chinese troops represent a new concern about China. Beijing, starved for energy resources, is likely to become an expansionist power in the coming years as a way to gain access to oil and gas reserves. In addition to Africa, future energy-related targets for Beijing could include the Russian Far East, which is growing increasingly isolated from central Russia and Southeast Asia, where China, in the past, has made military moves in the South China Sea, where oil and gas deposits are believed to be held.

A U.S. government official familiar with intelligence reports confirmed that there are Chinese in Sudan. However, the official could not confirm that 4,000 Chinese troops are there.

The reported Chinese troop presence in Sudan follows an Internet report several years ago that there were 700,000 Chinese troops in Sudan. That report proved to be false.

Aegis approved
The Pentagon has signed off on selling Taiwan advanced warships equipped with Aegis battle-management systems, defense officials said.

It is the first time the Bush administration has agreed to offer Aegis-equipped warships to the island, which are expected to be controversial because they form the base for advanced U.S. sea-based missile defenses.

In 2001, the administration offered to sell Taiwan Kidd-class destroyers, which, while capable, do not have the same capabilities as the Aegis ships.

The Aegis battle-management system is built around a large, phased-array radar that allows the system to track hundreds of targets over hundreds of miles, including satellites in space.

It is the core of the Navy's sea-based missile-defense system, which is expected to be deployed next year. The system uses the Standard SM-3 missile as an interceptor.

Richard Lawless, the deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia, said last month that the Aegis sale to Taiwan was under consideration.

The need for Taiwanese missile defenses is highlighted by the growing Chinese missile deployments opposite the island. Beijing currently has 450 to 500 missiles targeted on Taiwan.

Notable quotes
The Senate Republican Policy Committee has issued a new report that asks recipients to match the quote with the speaker.

Who said, for example, "I believe the record of Saddam Hussein's ruthless, reckless breach of international values and standards of behavior which is at the core of the cease-fire agreement, with no reach, no stretch, is cause enough for the world community to hold him accountable by use of force, if necessary"?

Give up? It was Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, the probable Democratic presidential nominee, on Oct. 9, 2002.

And, "I believe that Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime represents a clear threat to the United States, to our allies, to our interests around the world, and to the values of freedom and democracy we hold dear."

The answer: Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who may be Mr. Kerry's running mate.

Col. West's plans
Lt. Col. Allen B. West will retire soon and resettle in Florida, where he plans to teach high school students and coach track.

The Washington Times broke the story earlier this year that the Army filed charges against the 4th Infantry Division soldier for scaring a confession out of an Iraqi policeman. The Iraqi had information on a planned assassination of Col. West.

The case became a cause celeb as the division's judge advocate general sought to court-martial Col. West on assault charges for firing his service revolver near the Iraqi's head. But a hearing officer recommended administrative punishment that allowed Col. West to retire with 20 years of service. He plans to leave Fort Hood, Texas, in April and head to Florida.

Hunt for Osama
Pentagon officials have become amused at the urban legends popping up over the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

They don't know whether to laugh the hardest at reports that U.S. forces have him surrounded in Pakistan, or that they have actually caught him. In this version, the captors are just waiting for the word from President Bush to announce the capture at the most politically advantageous time.

In truth, officials say, they believe they are getting closer to catching bin Laden because they have added to their network of sources. They belive there are areas in the vast ungoverned tribal areas to which bin Laden regularly returns.

The source says there has been no pressure from the White House to step up the search. Instead, the buzz over bin Laden is coming from Afghanistan, where U.S. commanders believe they are homing in on the al Qaeda terror master.

"I would be flabbergasted if he is not caught by the end of the year," said one defense source.

Capt. Speicher
The search for downed Navy pilot Capt. Michael Scott Speicher was in the news again this week.

Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), told a Senate committee that the initials "MSS" carved in a prison wall in Iraq are now being examined by the FBI for clues to the pilot's whereabouts.

People interested in a fuller story of the search for Capt. Speicher can view a secret DIA report in the new book "Rumsfeld's War" by column co-author Rowan Scarborough. The DIA report reveals that the Iraqi defector who claimed the naval officer is alive is most likely a liar. All his assertions have been disproved by witnesses he said would support his story.

Capt. Speicher's F-18 Hornet was shot down on the first night of Operation Desert Storm. The Navy first listed him as killed in action, but changed it to missing after the defector's testimony.

By the way, "Rumsfeld's War," which recounts how Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld took control of the Pentagon and of the war on terrorism, debuted at No. 23 on Monday on the New York Times' online best-seller list for nonfiction books.

  • 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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