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Dec. 5, 2019
Notes from the Pentagon

China steals U.S.-funded quantum research
China has exploited federally funded research at American and other Western universities that is now used in cutting-edge quantum technology being integrated into Beijing’s military forces, according to a private intelligence report made public this week.

“China’s rapid advances in dual-use quantum technologies stem from a multi-decade PRC government strategy to exploit Western government funding to send PRC scientists to top quantum research labs around the world for training,” the report by the private intelligence firm Strider states.

China then recruited the quantum scientists working abroad by calling in their unwritten agreements promising to return home and support military research.

“This is all done in the name of ‘international scientific cooperation’ while the now Western-trained PRC scientists simultaneously support China’s state-owned defense companies to develop quantum military applications,” the report said. The report on quantum technology acquisition is setting off alarm bells inside the U.S. and allied intelligence communities, according to insiders.

The Chinese effort was uncovered by Strider, a startup firm specializing in foreign economic espionage. The 22-page report linked the espionage to the University of Science and Technology of China, a government institution whose foreign collection efforts helped China become a leader in quantum research and applications.

Quantum technology and computing provide extremely secure communications and electronics that are virtually unbreakable, limiting one of the United States’ most strategic advantages — unmatched electronic intelligence-gathering by the National Security Agency, as well as electronic warfare by the military services.

American research exploited by Chinese scientists included work done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Colorado and Louisiana State University, the report said. In Europe, Heidelberg University, Vienna University, Cambridge University and the University of Geneva were also involved in the Chinese quantum program.

The report identified several military applications linked to specific foreign-trained Chinese scientists, including a quantum satellite; naval applications for quantum guidance, quantum communications and quantum detection; superconducting quantum devices; and a quantum radar said to be capable of detecting radar-evading stealth aircraft. The quantum radar was unveiled by a Chinese research institute in November 2018.

For anti-submarine warfare, China announced it had a quantum magnetometer in 2017. Beijing claims the sensor will be used to measure magnetic fields in the hunt for submarines, potentially eliminating another key U.S. strategic military advantage.

Current non-quantum magnetometers have been used to detect submarines for years but boast only limited range. China’s quantum magnetometer based on a superconducting quantum interference device, or SQUID, could be used to find very quiet and hard-to-detect U.S. attack and missile submarines.

The announced quantum magnetometer appears to be an airborne device capable of detecting submarines at a distance of several kilometers — far greater than the few hundred yards of non-quantum magnetometers, the report said.

“This would be catastrophic for NATO submarines, which have been honed to run ever more quietly, using clever technology that prevents them from being heard or detected on sonar,” the report states.

The report also states that quantum navigation will enhance China’s strategic nuclear missile submarines, allowing them to avoid surfacing prior to a launch. Submarines currently must surface in the process of calibrating missile guidance for targets prior to launch.

According to Fan Guoping, a Chinese quantum scientist quoted in the report, depending on a submarine’s inertial navigation, “without requiring satellite navigation, it can achieve long-term navigation time, high precision, fully-autonomous navigation, and concealed operation for strategic nuclear submarines’ missions, for continuous execution of missions extending for over a hundred days, significantly increasing the concealed combat capabilities of these strategic submarines.”

“According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, [intellectual property] theft from China is costing U.S. corporations $225 [billion] to $600 [billion] a year,” said Bill Priestap, a Strider board member and former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence. “American innovation that represents our nation’s future is being stolen right before our eyes.”

China’s internet site for the first time revealed Tehran’s mock-up for an Iranian warship — a trimaran-hulled littoral combat ship outfitted with 96 missile launch tubes.

The Dec. 3 post provided the first images of the 3,000-ton Safineh or Moj-6 guided-missile warship.

The disclosure comes as Iran’s navy announced this week that Iranian forces will take part in joint war games with China and Russia.

“The joint war game between Iran, Russia and China, which will hopefully be conducted next month, carries the same message to the world — that these three countries have reached a meaningful strategic point in their relations,” Iranian navy Commander Rear Adm. Hossein Khanzadi told Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency last week.

Iran’s government has been confronting mass anti-government protests at scores of cities since mid-November, protests that have been met by deadly force by Iranian police. Reports from inside the country say hundreds of protesters have been killed in the violence.

Rick Fisher, a military affairs analyst with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the unveiling of the Iranian warship “shows that despite the pressure of international sanctions and rising internal dissension, Iran’s radical regime is committed to greater military expansion necessary to dominate the Persian Gulf.”

“Such ships will expand Iran’s ability to contribute to future combat or coercive exercises with China and Russia,” Mr. Fisher told Inside the Ring.

The new Iranian warship appears influenced by the design of Australia’s Independence-class littoral combat ship. It is outfitted with a new phased-array radar capable of detecting and targeting aircraft and guiding anti-aircraft missiles to the targets. Mr. Fisher said the warship also may be able to launch Iran’s Hozveneh/Soumar long-range land attack cruise missile that eventually could be armed with a small nuclear warhead.

Iran also revealed during a recent naval exhibition that it may have developed an air-independent propulsion system for submarines that would extend underwater endurance from days to weeks.

Iran also may be developing a vertical-launch system for missiles for its 1,200-ton Besat-class submarine.

“This could be for smaller anti-ship cruise missiles, or it may mean that Iran could be producing a version of North Korea’s new large missile-launching submarine,” Mr. Fisher said.

North Korea’s Nodong medium-range missile was used by Iran to develop its Shahab-3 missile, a missile that international experts say was the first considered in the past by Iran for its nuclear-tipped strike weapon.

The editor of the Communist Party of China-affiliated Global Times newspaper reacted harshly to the House passage this week of a bill targeting China’s repression of ethnic Uighurs, issuing a threat to target U.S. politicians in retaliation.

The jingoistic newspaper, part of China’s propaganda apparatus designed to give the appearance of diverse views, reported Wednesday that the Chinese government is considering publication of an “unreliable entity list” of U.S. groups and imposing sanctions on “relevant U.S. officials.”

The article stated that the Uighur Human Rights and Policy Act “smeared” counterterrorism efforts by China in Xinjiang, a remote western province where most of China’s Uighurs live. China has imprisoned more than 1 million Uighurs in a network of concentration camps in the region as part of a crackdown on what it regards as an entire ethnic minority it labels a terrorist group.

China calls the camps training centers.

Global Times Editor Hu Xijin tweeted that the House legislation was “a paper tiger with no special leverage that could affect Xinjiang.”

“Xinjiang officials, including the party chief Chen Quanguo, will look at ‘sanction’ with scorn because they have no connection with the U.S.,” Mr. Hu stated. “But U.S. politicians with stakes in China should be careful.”

Mr. Hu did not elaborate.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently spoke out against the pro-China lobby in the United States that has made millions of dollars doing business through contacts with Communist Party leaders.

Noting coercion on U.S. companies heavily invested in China that have been forced to comply with draconian demands for ideological correctness, Mr. Pompeo said in an Oct. 30 speech: “Beijing’s intransigence creates a permanent class of China lobbyists in the United States. Their primary job is to sell access to Chinese leaders and connect business partners.”

The audience at the speech included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, considered by many analysts to be the dean of America’s pro-China lobbyists.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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