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Nov. 18, 2021
Notes from the Pentagon

Biden accedes to another Chinese demand on media

By Bill Gertz
The Biden administration has given in to a Chinese government demand, reversing curbs imposed on officials working for Chinese state-controlled media outlets in the United States that were put into place by the Trump administration.

A State Department spokesman confirmed Chinese state media reports that Beijing had agreed to issue visas once again to working U.S. reporters and that the U.S. government would reciprocate for Chinese outlets with reporters in the U.S.

In 2020, the State Department imposed restrictions on Chinese media outlets operating in the United States, designating them as foreign missions because of heavy government controls on the outlets and their employees. Many of them are known by U.S. officials to be intelligence operatives. China responded by expelling a number of American journalists working for major news outlets.

The concession on Chinese media was on a list of 16 demands and 10 specific cases of concern presented by Chinese officials to Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman during a visit to China last summer.

The deal to loosen curbs on Chinese media outlets follows the agreement that led to the release from Canada of Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, who faced extradition to the United States on charges of illegal financial dealings with Iran. Ms. Meng’s release also was among the items on the list of Chinese demands.

A third concession was a promise by President Biden to end the U.S. policy of identifying the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as the illegitimate ruler of China, as distinct from the 1.4 billion Chinese people. The CCP was targeted under policies of the Trump administration in a bid to pressure the Marxist-Leninist regime, which has ruled China since 1949 with devastating consequences.

Historians have said the communist system resulted in the deaths of more than 60 million Chinese through policies of mass repression, government-produced famines and destructive social engineering.

Chinese state media reported that Mr. Biden promised Mr. Xi that the United States would “not seek to change China’s system.”

The White House made no mention of the promise in its readout of the virtual summit Monday night.

A senior administration official declined to say whether the president promised Mr. Xi the United States would not undermine the Chinese system but said previous policies that sought to transform that system were “erroneous.”

“We are not trying to bring about a fundamental transformation of China itself,” the official said.

Prior to the summit, a U.S. official denied that the administration had taken any action on the 16 demands and 10 cases that China said needed to be resolved before closer U.S.-Chinese relations could be established.

The CCP-affiliated Global Times reported that Mr. Biden made three promises to Mr. Xi, including the promise regarding the Chinese system. Other promises reportedly made by the president were statements that stepped-up U.S. alliances in the region were not targeting China and that the United States is not seeking a conflict with China.

Second gaffe on Taiwan standoff
President Biden this week misspoke about Taiwan for a second time on an issue that has contributed to rising tensions between Washington and Beijing.

After his virtual meeting with Mr. Xi, Mr. Biden was asked by a reporter whether the two leaders made progress on the thorny issue of Chinese coercion of Taiwan, the island democracy 100 miles off the Chinese coast.

“Yes. We have made very clear we support the Taiwan act, and that’s it. It’s independent. It makes its own decisions,” Mr. Biden said.

It was the second time in recent weeks that the president flubbed comments about U.S. policy toward Taiwan.

Earlier, Mr. Biden said the United States would defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack. The policy had been left deliberately ambiguous since the United States switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei in the 1970s.

China, which considers the island part of its sovereign territory, has said a formal declaration of independence by Taiwan, which broke with the mainland in 1949, is a “red line” for military intervention.

During the virtual summit, Mr. Xi told Mr. Biden that China is prepared for “decisive measures” if Taiwan makes any moves toward independence, according to Chinese state media.

In recent weeks, China’s military has stepped up provocative warplane flights near Taiwan, at one point sending more than 150 aircraft into the island’s defense identification zone.

Recognizing the latest gaffe on Tuesday, Mr. Biden backtracked by telling reporters in New Hampshire that he is not endorsing Taiwanese independence.

“We’re not going to change our policy at all,” he said. “I said that they have to decide — they — Taiwan. Not us. And we are not encouraging independence; we’re encouraging that they do exactly what the Taiwan act requires.”

The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act was passed by Congress in response to the downgrading of relations with Taiwan. The act calls on the United States to supply Taiwan with defensive arms but stops short of formally declaring that the United States would defend Taiwan militarily.

A report by the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission made public Wednesday said the situation across the Taiwan Strait is “dangerous” and that China’s military, for the first time, has the strength to retake the island.

Russian military hails satellite kill
Russia’s Defense Ministry this week marked the destruction of a defunct Russian satellite in orbit from a ground-based anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test, rejecting international protests and insisting that the test did not pose any danger.

Defense analysts say the field of thousands of pieces of potentially damaging debris from the space blast could threaten low-Earth orbit satellites and the International Space Station, which had to change its flight path this week to avoid being hit. The debris pieces are orbiting at very high speeds and can penetrate the shells of satellites.

The test comes amid tensions over potential military moves by Moscow against Ukraine, where thousands of Russian troops have repeatedly massed on the border. The test also appears timed as a geopolitical signal to the United States that Russia could target U.S. satellites if there is a military response by NATO to a Russian advance on Ukraine in support of pro-Moscow separatist forces.

Russian troops took over Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, prompting U.S. and European sanctions on Moscow.

The Russian ministry said in a statement that the military on Nov. 15 “successfully conducted a test, in which the Russian defunct Tselina-D satellite in orbit since 1982 was struck.”

The statement said the test was conducted in the context of an American space strategy that seeks “to create an all-out military advantage in outer space and, therefore, the Russian Defense Ministry is carrying out planned measures to strengthen the country’s defense capability.”

The United States protested the ASAT test but so far has not taken any other action to punish Russia. The test was similar to China’s highly destructive 2007 ASAT missile test, which also generated a large debris field.

“The United States knows for certain that the emerging fragments at the time of the test and in terms of the orbit’s parameters did not and will not pose any threat to orbital stations, satellites and space activity,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry noted earlier space tests by the United States, China and India but made no mention of destructive space blasts carried out by the Soviet Union in the 1970s.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the space station crew took “emergency procedures for safety” inside the station to avoid the satellite debris. The station passes the debris field every 90 minutes.

“I’m outraged by this irresponsible and destabilizing action,” Mr. Nelson said, adding the Russian actions “are reckless and dangerous.”

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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