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May 19, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

Lunar panda-huggers
Pentagon officials tell us they are concerned that a White House National Security Council (NSC) initiative to promote U.S. cooperation with China's space program will boost Chinese space arms, including anti-satellite weapons.

NSC Asian affairs director Dennis Wilder has promoted the initiative, first announced at the summit between President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao last month. Mr. Wilder told reporters that as part of efforts to deepen U.S.-Chinese ties, the administration will send NASA Administrator Michael Griffin to China to discuss moon exploration and space-debris avoidance, and to seek information on Chinese space-sensor technology.

Critics of the cooperation are calling it "panda-hugging on the moon," a dig at pro-China officials such as Mr. Wilder who they say will naively boost China's military program through space cooperation. Mr. Wilder could not be reached for comment.

Past administrations have rejected space cooperation with China based on the late-1990s debacle of two U.S. companies, Loral and Hughes, improperly helping China's space launchers become more reliable through embargoed technology fixes. The Chinese launcher technology also was used to make China's ballistic missiles more reliable.

Beijing is building three new ICBMs the DF-31, DF-31A and JL-2 all of which can hit U.S. forces or territory and are thought by U.S. intelligence officials to have U.S. space technology incorporated in them.

The Pentagon's forthcoming annual report on Chinese military power, expected to be released in the next several weeks, will contain new information on China's secret strategic-weapons buildup and its anti-satellite weapons programs, highlighting the dangers of joint space cooperation.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican and senior member of the Science Committee, said he opposes the plan to send Mr. Griffin to China.

"It is mind-boggling that the administration would even consider cooperating with China on space or any other technological endeavor," Mr. Rohrabacher said.

"The People's Republic of China continues to hide its military buildup, oppress its people, violate international labor standards and do business with rogue regimes such as Iran and Sudan."

Space cooperation with Beijing likely will produce "the transfer of technology which will strengthen them and threaten us."

Until China undertakes real democratic reform, the United States should do nothing to assist Beijing's technological power, "especially concerning their capability to build rockets and missiles," he said.

"That we are even contemplating such an exchange of information is baffling and frustrating," Mr. Rohrabacher told us.

McCaffrey on quitting
We asked retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey his views on retired generals calling for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

"I really never felt it was appropriate to call for the resignation of a presidential Cabinet member," he said. "I don't think it's appropriate for a variety of reasons. Logically, the day any of them retire they aren't generals. They're veterans. They're entitled to run for political office, express viewpoints and so I don't think we ought to respond too strongly."

Pro bombers
Border officials in Iraq report that few jihadists are crossing into Iraq from Syria to strap on a bomber's vest and kill innocent men, women and children. The reason: better border control and fewer Arab men willing to travel to Iraq to kill democracy.

But on the southwest border, Saudis continue to use the desert as a pathway to murder. One route takes them to Najaf and the north to Baghdad to meet up with henchmen of al Qaeda lieutenant Abu Musab Zarqawi.

We are told border guards are surprised at the education level of the Saudis. They include professionals teachers, doctors, engineers ready to wear a bomb and walk into a market or mosque before detonating it.

Strike distance
In discussing options for destroying Iran's nuclear facility, the most often mentioned scenario is an air campaign featuring B-2 bombers and sea-launched cruise missiles.

There is another option sitting across the Persian Gulf from Iran. The United Arab Emirates, which increasingly views the harsh Iranian regime with trepidation, owns a fleet of the most sophisticated version of the F-16, the Block 60. It would be capable of penetrating Iranian airspace and delivering ordnance on most of Iran's nuke sites.

The Block 60 comes with added fuel tanks, an advanced onboard computer to aid in navigation and targeting and the AMRAAM missile, the U.S. Air Force premiere air-to-air rocket. The U.A.E. received its first 10 "Desert Falcons" last May in a buy of 80 fighters.

Whether the emirs of the U.A.E. would ever accede to an Iranian mission is quite another story.

Kim Jong-Hill
Bush administration officials say Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, a leading advocate of conducting peace talks with North Korea, has gone overboard in taking a conciliatory line on the regime in Pyongyang, as part of an effort to coax the communist regime back to the now-stalled six-part talks on its nuclear program.

One senior administration official said Mr. Hill's pro-North Korea bent has bordered on appeasement. Insiders say they privately are calling the diplomat in charge of the State Department's Asia policy "Kim Jong-Hill," after North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.

Mr. Hill has sought to block or slow President Bush's tougher posture toward North Korea that includes placing more restrictions on Pyongyang for its illegal activities, including currency counterfeiting, illegal drug trafficking and other sub rosa activities.

Vets protest
The heads of our large U.S. veterans organizations have accused House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer of being "hostile" toward the groups that represent millions of ex-service members.

At issue: Mr. Buyer, Indiana Republican, has announced an end to the committee's practice of holding a hearing each winter to hear the groups' recommendations for Department of Veterans Affairs spending.

"The fact that you have made a decision without consulting [veterans service organizations] is on its face, disrespectful to our organizations and our millions of volunteer members that live and advocate for their fellow veterans and their families all across this great nation," said a May 5 letter to Mr. Buyer. It was signed by the heads of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and American Veterans.

"The fact that you continue not to listen could be considered, without resorting to too much speculation, hostile and indeed we feel that you are being hostile in your dealings with VSOs," the four said. "It is our hope that this letter will cause you to rethink your decision to shut America's veterans out of the congressional debate for adequate VA funding."

The vets hand-delivered their letter to every member of Congress.

Mr. Buyer wants to cancel the vets hearing to streamline the budget process.

  • 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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