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Jan. 16, 2020
Notes from the Pentagon

Huawei not part of trade deal
China’s efforts to persuade the U.S. government to drop its criminal prosecution of a senior executive of Huawei Technologies, the global telecommunications giant, as part of a partial trade deal were not successful.

Beijing officials for months during talks leading up to the landmark trade agreement signed Wednesday had raised the issue of the Justice Department case against Huawei and Meng Wanzhou, the company’s chief financial officer.

No concessions, however, were made by U.S. negotiators on the Huawei prosecution in the phase 1 deal, since federal criminal prosecutions are outside the scope of the agreement. It also does not appear from the text of the trade agreement that the United States will back off export restrictions of U.S. products to Huawei.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the Trump administration was divided over the Huawei restrictions, with conservatives favoring a complete shut-off of U.S. technology and liberals favoring an easing of curbs. A White House spokesman had no comment when asked about Huawei and the trade deal.

The bilateral trade deal focuses mainly on China’s promises to purchase billions of dollars in U.S. agricultural products and to curb intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers.

Chinese President Xi Jinping indirectly referenced the issue in a letter to President Trump that was read during the signing ceremony at the White House on Wednesday. The Chinese leader stated that he hoped the trade accord will lead to fairer treatment of Chinese companies by the United States.

China has complained that U.S. restrictions on Huawei are aimed at preventing the company from competing internationally. But the U.S. government regards Huawei, which is seeking to dominate the market for next-generation 5G telecommunications networks around the world, as a stalking horse for Chinese electronic spying through its equipment.

Ms. Meng, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of the company’s founder, was detained by Canadian authorities in Vancouver in December 2018 at the request of the Justice Department. A month later, she and Huawei were indicted on charges of bank fraud, wire fraud, violating U.S. sanctions, money laundering and obstruction of justice related to Huawei’s financial dealings with Iran in 2013.

A separate indictment in Washington state has charged Huawei with economic espionage for allegedly stealing telecommunications technology from U.S. competitor T-Mobile.

A Canadian court in British Columbia is set to hear the U.S. extradition case against Ms. Meng next week. According Canada’s CBC news, Huawei attorneys will argue that the charges against Ms. Meng are based on U.S. sanctions not imposed by Canada and thus the extradition request should be denied.

U.S. and Canadian authorities will argue that the fraud charges Huawei is facing are crimes in both countries and thus the extradition should go forward.

China has detained several Canadian nationals in China in retaliation for Ms. Meng’s arrest. Ottawa had appealed to U.S. negotiators to include provisions for the release of the Canadians in the trade talks.

Congress also has signaled that it will move ahead with legislative restrictions on Huawei that would prevent the easing of export controls on Huawei.

The Russian intelligence-gathering ship Viktor Leonov, which triggered intense American intelligence monitoring last month as it sailed along the East Coast, is back. Defense sources said the Leonov was spotted last week near Kings Bay, Georgia, home to U.S. nuclear missile and attack submarines, as it made its way up the coast.

Asked about the latest Russian spy ship activity, John Cornelio, a spokesman for the Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, said that “NORAD and USNORTHCOM closely track vessels of interest, including foreign military naval vessels such as the Russian ship Victor Leonov, in our area of responsibility.”

“We are aware of Russia’s naval activities, including the deployment of intelligence collection ships in the region,” he added.

Mr. Cornelio declined to provide specifics but said joint air and maritime operations are carried out routinely in defense of the United States and Canada.

Steffan Watkins, a private ship tracking expert, said he identified the Leonov operating about 30 nautical miles off the coast of Kings Bay on Jan. 6.

“The Russian navy AGI Viktor Leonov is operating off the U.S. East Coast again, for its second pass this year,” Mr. Watkins told Inside the Ring. AGI is the military term used to classify spy ships and stands for “auxiliary, general intelligence.”

“These operations are the same as they have been conducting since at least 2012, when they were first spotted by a keen ship spotter in the Port of Havana making their almost-yearly trips.”

The Leonov’s erratic actions last month prompted the Coast Guard to issue a warning to shipping traffic on the East Coast. On Dec. 16, three Coast Guard stations stretching from South Carolina to Florida issued warnings that the Leonov was “operating in an unsafe manner off the coast.”

“This unsafe operation includes not energizing running lights while in reduced visibility conditions, not responding to hails by commercial vessels attempting to coordinate safe passage, and other erratic movements,” the warning stated.

U.S. intelligence officials have said that one of the Leonov’s missions is to track undersea cables used for internet and communications traffic.

It is believed that the Russians would target those cables in a crisis to disrupt U.S. military and civilian communications.

Mr. Watkins said the Leonov’s unusual movements are “not erratic to anyone watching them yearly.”

“They have been stopping over submarine lanes that the U.S. Navy uses to bring submarines back and forth to their naval bases [and] are believed to be listening for submarines’ acoustic signatures, as well as conducting signals intelligence [gathering] with an array of different antennas, including one mounted under a distinctive weather protective dome that can be seen in photos,” he said.

“Keeping to their usual pattern, the Viktor Leonov will likely depart in the next week or two, to continue on its six- to nine-month tour in the Caribbean or elsewhere, before returning to their home port in Murmansk Oblast, Russia.”

The White House last week proposed a new set of regulations to guide the development and use of artificial intelligence among private sector companies.

The objective, according to U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios, is to develop principles for the cutting-edge technology that reflect American values of freedom, human rights and civil liberties.

“By reducing regulatory uncertainty for America’s innovators, increasing public input on regulatory decisions, and promoting trustworthy AI development, the principles offer the American approach to address the challenging technical and ethical issues that arise with AI technologies,” Mr. Kratsios said.

A senior U.S. military officer has said the United States, unlike other nations, will never permit strategic nuclear weapons to be controlled by machines and that human decision-makers will always be in the command-and-control loop.

China’s military, however, is considering advanced drone weapons systems that would be permitted to make autonomous decisions — without human intervention — in conducting strikes.

Russia’s military also has deployed a doomsday nuclear counterstrike system known as “Dead Hand” that could autonomously launch nuclear missiles in the event key military and civilian leaders are wiped out in a nuclear strike.

“China, Russia, members of the European Union, Japan and South Korea all are increasing AI research, development and training,” said former Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work.

“China in particular sees advances in AI as a key means to surpass the United States in both economic and military power,” he stated in a report by the Center for a New American Security.

Mr. Work stated that artificial intelligence can provide tremendous benefits for society but “already is being abused by authoritarian states to surveil and repress their populations.”

AI technology also is enabling the use of sophisticated influence attacks on democratic states.

“The United States must make sure it leads in AI technologies and shapes global norms for usage in ways that are consistent with democratic values and respect for human rights,” he said.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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