By Bill Gertz
INSIDE THE RING
October 8, 2009
China's most senior military intelligence official, a veteran of spy
operations in Europe and cyberspace, recently made a secret visit to the
United States and complained to the Pentagon about the press leak on the
Chinese submarine that secretly shadowed the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft
carrier in 2006.
Maj. Gen. Yang Hui said senior Chinese leaders suspected the Pentagon
deliberately disclosed the encounter as part of a U.S. effort to send a
political message of displeasure to China's military. The Song-class
submarine surfaced undetected near the carrier, and Gen. Yang said the
Chinese believed the leak was timed to coincide with the visit of a
senior U.S. admiral.
Gen. Yang made the remarks during a military exchange visit in early
September, according to two defense officials. The officials discussed
the talks on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to
discuss the contents of the private meetings.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman confirmed that Gen. Yang was hosted by
Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr. but
declined to provide details of the discussions. The visit included
meetings at the DIA, Pentagon and State Department and within the
intelligence community, he said, noting that Gen. Yang invited Gen.
Burgess to visit China.
The U.S. visit by the senior spymaster was unusual. The Chinese service
has been linked to two spy rings that operated against the United
States, including the case of California defense contractor Chi Mak, who
was sentenced to 24 years in prison last year for supplying China with
Chinese military intelligence also was behind the cases of two Pentagon
officials recently convicted of spying. James W. Fondren Jr., a Pacific
Command official, was convicted of espionage Sept. 25 for his role in
supplying secrets as part of a spy ring directed by Tai Shen Kuo, a
Taiwanese-born naturalized U.S. citizen who court papers said was an
agent for Beijing. The second Pentagon official linked to the ring was
Gregg Bergersen of the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency,
who was convicted along with Kuo last year for supplying defense
technology for China's military.
Both that spy ring and the Chi Mak case were linked through a Chinese
official in Guangzhou, identified in court papers as Pu Pei-liang, who
worked as a researcher at the Chinese-military-funded Center for Asia
Pacific Studies and received the defense secrets from the spies.
According to defense officials, Gen. Yang is an experienced clandestine
operative who speaks English fluently and worked undercover in Europe.
Gen. Yang told U.S. officials during meetings that Chinese leaders were
so angered by the disclosure of the Chinese submarine maneuver that they
considered canceling the visit at the time by Adm. Gary Roughead,
then-Pacific Fleet commander who has since been promoted to chief of
The disclosure first appeared in The Washington Times and embarrassed
Navy officials, who had to explain how defenses were breached against
one of the military's most important power projection capabilities.
Gen. Yang brought up the incident during talks in Washington and said
his intelligence service, known in U.S. intelligence circles as 2PLA,
carried out an investigation. He said the service informed senior
Chinese communist leaders that they had determined that the press
disclosure was not an officially sanctioned leak.
The Chinese Song-class diesel submarine surfaced near the Kitty Hawk on
Oct. 26, 2006, and was spotted by one of the ship's aircraft.
Current and former U.S. officials said Chinese intelligence cooperation,
the reason for Gen. Yang's visit, has been mixed, focusing mainly on
large numbers of Chinese reports on Muslim Uighurs in western Xinjiang
province. Some of them are linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda, but
many are dissident Chinese Muslims seeking independence from communist
Former State Department China affairs specialist John J. Tkacik Jr. said
Gen. Yang is an expert in cyberwarfare and once headed the PLA's
electronic intelligence section.
"His success as a cyberwarrior led to his promotion from senior colonel
to major general and chief of the PLA's prestigious Second Department,
which is not only responsible for military human intelligence
collection, but also collates and analyzes all-source intelligence for
the PLA," Mr. Tkacik said.
"I have no doubt that he has been directing the Chinese military's vast,
industrial-vacuum-cleaner cyber-intelligence campaign that has
penetrated not just U.S. military computer systems, but just about every
U.S. business, university and research institute's computer systems as
Mr. Tkacik said it is not clear why the Pentagon is seeking to increase
transparency with Gen. Yang and his intelligence collectors. "They
certainly aren't going to reciprocate," he said.
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