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China campaign

China’s government is directly inserting itself in the Pentagon’s
plans for setting up a special center to study the People’s Liberation
Army. Currently there is no U.S. government entity devoted to what is
becoming the de facto primary future threat for the U.S. military.

The center is currently the subject of a political tug of war between
the National Defense University, which is charged with setting up the
center, and Congress, which mandated the center.

President Clinton objected to the legislation in a signing statement
last October because he disagreed with Congress’ assertion in the bill
that China will become the United States’ next strategic enemy.

According to Pentagon officials, a senior Chinese official
“expressed reservations” to the Pentagon about the involvement in the
center of the man currently working as “interim director” — National
Defense University official Ronald Montaperto.

The Chinese, we are told, are opposing Mr. Montaperto’s involvement
in the center because of his past role as a Defense Intelligence Agency
analyst. Beijing also fears that future exchange programs of the center
will be used for DIA spying against China.

One Pentagon official told us the Chinese intervention is suspicious.
“It looks like a strategic deception,” the officials said. Chinese
opposition to Mr. Montaperto, who has a reputation for being far more
dovish than the Pentagon on China, is a ruse designed to enhance his
prospects for keeping an influential position at the new center, which
will be set up by next year, this official said.

Mr. Montaperto is considered one of the leading U.S. China analysts
who seek to play down the growing military power of the People’s
Liberation Army. He has told associates that he has been unfairly tagged
as a “panda hugger.”

An NDU official said he was unaware of the Chinese government
opposition to Mr. Montaperto.

Location, location

The nondescript apartment building at 1515 S. Arlington Ridge Road
has an interesting list of owners — past and present.

The Washington Times put the Pentagon Ridge Apartments in the news
this week by reporting that Xinhua News Agency, communist China’s
state-run news service and suspected intelligence collector, had bought
the building, which overlooks the Pentagon. Xinhua has told tenants to
vacate the premise so its workers can turn the seven-story building into
the agency’s living and working headquarters.

Spy experts say the location gives Beijing a choice spot if it wants
to try to eavesdrop on the Pentagon.

It turns out another U.S. adversary lived at 1515 S. Arlington: the
East Germans during the Cold War. And FBI counterintelligence agents
suspected the communists of using the apartments as a spy base, just
like some officials today believe Xinhua is in the espionage business.

The Germans bought the building as housing for its embassy diplomats
and their families. The German government sold the property after the
fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and German reunification.

A former resident of the River House, a high-rise down the street,
said the East Germans were living there when he moved there in 1977 and
they were still there when he left in the mid-1980s.

“We used to watch them, and they used to watch us,” said the former
resident, who asked not to be named.

Rick Sincere, a media consultant who lived across the street from
Pentagon Ridge for 10 years, remembers the building being empty once the
East Germans moved out.

“It was very strange that that building had been abandoned,” said
Mr. Sincere, now a Charlottesville resident. “It was empty for about two
years.”

The East German purchase gave rise to the 1985 Foreign Missions Act.
It requires all foreign embassies to apply to the State Department for
permission to buy land in the U.S.

In this case, the Chinese embassy in Washington failed to tell the
State Department that Xinhua planned to buy the building. State, which
treats Xinhua as an extension of the foreign embassy, is now talking to
Beijing about the matter.

Warrior ambassador

When Israel conducted its daring aerial bombing raid of Iraq’s
Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, the initial reaction of the U.S.
government was harsh.

Deputy CIA Director Bobby Ray Inman, without checking with the White
House, cut off Israel’s access to certain satellite photos and secrets
on Arab weapons as punishment. Less than a decade later, the U.S.
government was privately applauding the bombing raid that set the
standard for real nuclear non-proliferation.

The Israeli bombing raid used U.S.-made F-16 warplanes that blew up a
nuclear reactor and set back Iraq’s covert effort to build nuclear
weapons.

The man who orchestrated the raid, known as Operation Opera, is David
Ivry, currently Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

On the wall of his embassy office suite are two framed documents. One
is a drawing of an Israeli F-16 warplane signed by the pilots who took
part in the raid under Mr. Ivry’s command. It says in Hebrew, “To the
conductor of the opera from the orchestra.”

Next to the drawing is a U.S. reconnaissance photograph of the Osirak
reactor complex that was presented as a gift to Mr. Ivry by Defense
Secretary Dick Cheney in 1990. At the bottom, the Bush administration
defense chief signed the photograph and congratulated him for a job well
done.

Intercepts

  • In a little-noticed report, a Defense Science Board task
    force on military personnel issues made a number of recommendations to
    reverse downward recruiting and retention numbers.

    The Pentagon advisory panel’s boldest idea seems dead on arrival. The
    board proposed merging the National Guard and Reserves into one
    organization. Congress and part-time warriors jealously guard their
    local units. In fact, an intense letter-writing campaign convinced
    Defense Secretary William S. Cohen to put off planned cuts in reserve
    troops.

    Asked about the task force’s recommendation, Jay Spiegel, executive
    director of the Reserve Officer Association, told us: “Nobody in either
    the Pentagon or Congress takes this proposal seriously. It’s a dumb idea
    that’s bad for national security. We killed the idea 35 years ago and we
    are prepared to kill it again. Unfortunately, no bad idea ever dies. The
    Defense Science Board usually comes up with appropriate ways to save
    money, but they really blew it with this one.”

  • Officers at U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg,
    N.C., are examining whether to make the 528th support battalion an
    all-male unit. That way, our insiders tell us, the elite commando unit
    can avoid the kind of debate that raged at Fort Bragg this spring.

    The command’s top physician proposed that women from the 528th, a
    supply outfit, be allowed to enroll in special forces medic training, a
    grueling course that trains medics to accompany Green Berets on
    clandestine missions. The proposal sent commandos into an uproar until
    senior officers killed the idea.

    One option for ensuring the issue does not come up again is to make
    the support battalion all male, just like the Green Berets it
    serves.

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