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June 11, 2020
Notes from the Pentagon

Mike Pompeo on Chinese coercion
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week stepped up his criticism of the Chinese Communist Party, accusing Beijing of using “coercive bullying tactics” against a leading British bank.

Mr. Pompeo said the latest example involves a threat by Chinese leaders to punish the British bank HSBC and to cancel plans to build nuclear power plants in Britain unless the government allows Huawei Technologies to help build a 5G telecommunications network there.

The Trump administration has launched a global pressure campaign to block American allies from using Huawei equipment, citing concerns about Chinese electronic spying through trap doors in the gear.

“Shenzhen-based Huawei is an extension of the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance state,” Mr. Pompeo said in a statement.

“The CCP’s browbeating of HSBC, in particular, should serve as a cautionary tale,” he added.

HSBC’s Asia-Pacific chief executive officer last week signed a petition backing Beijing’s decision to impose new security laws on Hong Kong and break commitments to the U.N.-brokered deal assuring the former British colony’s autonomy, Mr. Pompeo said.

The executive, Peter Wong, is also a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a part of the CCP United Front Work Department, a quasi-intelligence agency used by the party for foreign influence operations.

“That show of fealty seems to have earned HSBC little respect in Beijing, which continues to use the bank’s business in China as political leverage against London,” Mr. Pompeo said.

The aggressive Chinese coercive activity is one reason nations should avoid an overreliance on doing business with China and highlights the imperative of guarding critical infrastructure from Chinese influence, he added.

“The United States stands ready to assist our friends in the U.K. with any needs they have, from building secure and reliable nuclear power plants to developing trusted 5G solutions that protect their citizens’ privacy,” Mr. Pompeo said. “Free nations deal in true friendship and desire mutual prosperity, not political and corporate kowtows.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying tweeted in response that “for some U.S. politicians, if someone doesn’t follow the U.S. to attack China, he/she must have been coerced by China.”

“That’s narrow-minded,” she wrote. “The world is diverse and everyone should have the right to make independent decisions and choices.”

The race to develop U.S. hypersonic missiles in response to ultra-high-speed maneuvering weapons from China and Russia suffered a setback recently.

A developmental scramjet-powered Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) was destroyed in a recent test after it was mistakenly dropped from a B-52, Aviation Week’s Aerospace Daily reported this week.

Quoting sources familiar with the test, the newsletter stated that the HAWC fell from the bomber during a captive-carry flight test carried out by the 419th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

The missile is being developed jointly by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force and has been a high priority under the Trump administration.

Asked about the test failure, a DARPA spokesman told Inside the Ring: “Due to classification, we are not at liberty to share any details regarding the tests.”

Pieces of the HAWC were recovered, suggesting the missile test failed over a land test site, possibly the Edwards Precision Impact Range Area or the nearby Naval Air Weapons Station range at China Lake. The HAWC is already behind schedule for its expected first flight test, which was set for last year.

The missile uses a hydrocarbon scramjet-powered propulsion to reach the high speeds. A scramjet is a supersonic combustion ramjet involving combustion that uses the forward speed of the aircraft as part of its propulsion.

The missile was initially being developed by Lockheed Martin and later taken over by Raytheon.

Aviation Week also reported that a Lockheed version of the HAWC was involved in another recent accident.

Two other hypersonic missiles under development are a joint DARPA/Air Force Tactical Boost Glide demonstrator and the AGCM-183A Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapons. Those missiles are launched from ballistic missiles and glide and maneuver to targets.

Hypersonic missiles travel at over five times the speed of sound or more than 3,800 miles per hour. The Pentagon estimates that a hypersonic missile could cross the Pacific in 100 minutes.

Michael D. Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, has warned that China and Russia are developing hypersonic weapons. The Pentagon has made development of its hypersonic arsenal a priority.

The Pentagon is spending at least $1 billion on new hypersonic missiles that were shunned by the Obama administration.

“They are quite capable,” Mr. Griffin said in public remarks last year. “The advantage offered by a hypersonic offense is that it overflies air defenses as we understand them today, and it underflies our missile defenses. It goes into the gap between air defense and missile defense.”

China has conducted at least six flight tests of its DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicle, and Russia is reportedly close to deploying its Avangard hypersonic missiles. Both nations say the new systems are designed to defeat current U.S. missile defenses.

Federal customs authorities in the Midwest have intercepted several shipments from China of counterfeit U.S. currency in recent months.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents in Wisconsin on May 27 intercepted a shipment of poorly made counterfeit $100 bills sent to a residence in Milwaukee.

CBP spokesman Steven Bansbach said the counterfeit bills lacked the security features of real bills and contained Chinese writing on the back that said “play money.”

The money had been sent from Shanghai, and the recipient was interviewed by police and said he was unaware the bills were illegal.

“It is illegal,” said Mr. Bansbach. “We have seen it at other locations.”

A similar seizure in Cincinnati was also traced to China, around $252,000 in fake $100s.

“It was low quality and looked like it was made on a copier,” Mr. Bansbach said.

Another unusual cache of counterfeit money from China was intercepted in December.

CBP agents in International Falls, Minnesota, discovered $900,000 in fake $1 bills that was contained in a commercial rail shipment that originated in China.

A total of 45 boxes containing the fake bills were inspected on Dec. 14 and turned over to the Secret Service, which is in charge of investigating counterfeiting, the CBP said in a statement.

“We don’t really know why the counterfeiter chose to produce $1 bill rather than $100 bills,” said CBP spokesman Jason Givens, who noted that quality on the bills was low.

Jason Schmelz, director of CBP’s Pembina, North Dakota, area, said the counterfeits in Minnesota show the range of national security threats.

“Those threats don’t always come in the form of terrorists or narcotics, but also in the form of counterfeit currency and other goods that have the potential to harm the economy of the United States,” he said.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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