The United States Has Been Probing for China's Nuclear Intelligence by Various Methods and Whatever Means Necessary

by Yu Sung
Zhongguo Tongxun She

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

[OSC Translated Text]

Hong Kong, 23 Feb (ZTS) -- Bill Gertes [should be: Gertz], a reporter for [the Washington Times] in the United States, wrote an article entitled "Commercial Photos Show Chinese Nuke Buildup" on 16 February. It was a piece of news, but it also sheds light on what the United States has really been doing: Over the years it has been surreptitiously gathering and probing for intelligence on China's nuclear power.

The article publishes a photograph taken from commercial satellites by two US nonprofit organizations, the "Natural Resources Defense Council" and the "Association [should be: Federation] of American Scientists". "The photograph," the article claims, "shows that during a period from 2000 to 2004, a Chinese 'Xia-class' nuclear submarine docked at a base, near which was a 'secret submarine tunnel' leading into a hollowed-out mountain." It said that the 12 JL-1 ballistic guided missiles (dan dao dao dan) carried by this 'Xia-class' nuclear attack submarine were being stored inside the cave of the secret tunnel. It quoted a Pentagon official as saying that "China has a whole secret network of underground facilities. The US Government knows about this very clearly. Agencies within the US Government have got hold of much clearer intelligence photographs on the facilities."

The quoted a military observer as saying that the article itself reveals that the United States has been paying close attention to the development of China's nuclear technology all these years and is willing to use various means to probe China's nuclear power.

In fact, as early as 1955, from the moment China decided to develop atomic bombs, US intelligence has been doing everything it could, with whatever means necessary, to gather relevant secret information. U-2 spy planes were in active service then, and their major mission was to monitor the development of Chinese and Soviet nuclear technology. In September 1959, a U-2 manned by US personnel found its way into the Lanzhou Uranium Enrichment Plant and took secret photographs. In 1964, not long after China's successful test detonation of an atomic bomb, U-2 planes also managed to gather relevant data about it. But China strengthened its vigilance; in particular, between 1962 and 1967, as many as five U-2 planes manned by Taiwan pilots were shot down. Thereafter, the United States began to pursue vigorously the development of other kinds of espionage facilities capable of safely learning China's nuclear secrets.

In the mid-1960s, the "Blackbird," a high-altitude, high-speed strategic reconnaissance plane, went into service. It was the world's first military aircraft capable of flying at three times the speed of sound. To date it is the fastest and highest-flying plane in active service in the world. The plane is equipped with advanced spying devices and has never been downed since it went into service. Jane's Defense Weekly once reported that in 1967, secret information about China's first Dongfeng-2 nuclear warhead was on the desk of US President Lyndon Johnson eight minutes after its first test detonation. The secret information was obtained by "Blackbird."

In 1960, after the launch of its spy satellites, the United States got the first taste of using them freely to conduct stealth photography from space. In order to get a fuller picture of the development of China's atomic bomb program, the United States launched a string of six spy satellites toward the end of the 1960s, which orbited the Earth in hour-long cycles, with 10-minute intervals between them, so that a satellite passed over mainland China every ten minutes. If they spot any "clues or traces," "Blackbirds" in Japan and U-2 planes in Taiwan would immediately be deployed to investigate changes in greater detail. Moreover, the United States also deployed the National Seismology Agency (as translated) and seismological research facilities outside the country to collect nuclear testing data.

However, according to a report by the, US spy satellites made a huge botch-up in 1985 when they mistook some earthen residential fortifications -- a kind of folk architecture -- in Fujian for a massive nuclear base, keeping Ronald Reagan, the president at the time, on edge for a while. To avoid similar embarrassments, toward the end of 1991 the United States launched a satellite under the national defense support plan, which was equipped with a massive infrared telescope consisting of over 6,000 components, designed to spy on the launching and nuclear testing of ballistic guided missiles in China, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and the Middle East region.

Apart from aerial spying, the Central Intelligence Agency also sent agents to gather more detailed nuclear information on the ground. After repeated failures, in 1965 the CIA hired a number of British and US mountaineers to climb the Himalayas on the India's side, braving wind, snow, severe cold, and oxygen shortages. They hauled a nuclear-powered electronic reconnaissance device up Nanda Devi mountain and with it scanned Xinjiang in China for a radius of hundreds of square kilometers, back and forth repeatedly, in an attempt to gather China's nuclear data. However, because of the extremely bad weather of the Himalayas, the nuclear-power set of the electronic reconnaissance device malfunctioned not long after it was installed, temporarily ending the nuclear spying activities.

(Description of Source: Hong Kong Zhongguo Tongxun She in Chinese -- a PRC-owned press agency (China News Agency))