House Republicans pan Biden’s outreach to Xi

Leading House Republicans criticized President Biden for agreeing to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in San Francisco on Wednesday.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican, and Rep. Young Kim, California Republican and chairwoman of the panel’s Indo-Pacific subcommittee, criticized the president for making time to talk with Mr. Xi on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, where Mr. Biden is hosting leaders from nearly two dozen Pacific Rim countries. The two legislators said the presidential session followed a “series of fruitless meetings between senior Biden administration officials and [Chinese Communist Party] officials.”

“The United States has nothing to show from any of these meetings and should not preemptively remove any restrictions currently in place for what is likely to be yet another futile meeting,” Mr. McCaul and Ms. Kim said in a statement, even before the outcome of the meeting was known. China “continues to wrongfully detain American citizens, commit genocide and other horrific human rights abuses, help fill American cities with fentanyl, and militarily threaten American partners and allies in the Indo-Pacific.”



Mr. McCaul and Ms. Kim said they support diplomacy, but urged the administration to focus cultivating relationships with America’s Democratic allies — not to engage in what they called “more useless photo ops” with China’s authoritarian leader. Mr. Biden should use APEC to advance American economic goals like reducing barriers to trade, protecting supply chains from Chinese interference, and prevent the loss of critical and emerging technology, the lawmakers said.

“Now is the time to double down on economic wins with our friends – not to appease authoritarian adversaries,” Mr. McCaul and Ms. Kim said.

Rep. Mike Gallagher, the Wisconsin Republican who chairs the House’s Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, organized a letter to Mr. Biden signed by 12 other Republicans that urged a reversal of what the lawmakers said were months of misguided policy approaches to China.

The group also urged the president to demand the release of U.S. citizens wrongfully imprisoned in China. Mr. Gallagher and his colleagues said the administration’s public positions on competition with China remained the same, but “it is clear that competitive actions have been sacrificed to advance aimless, zombie-like engagement.”

The letter added that “your administration has presided over an overwhelming decline in action [toward China] in the last 18 months, particularly those related to human rights.”

Concessions to China’s Communist regime by the administration in a bid to boost bilateral communications have produced few results, the lawmakers said. For example, China’s government had taken no action to stem the flow of chemicals used in making illicit fentanyl, a deadly drug that has caused hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths in the United States over the past several years, they said.

Beijing has also failed to increase market access under its trade commitments for U.S. exports and has done nothing to reduce tensions across the Taiwan Strait or halt military provocations in the South China Sea, and Chinese espionage operations, they said, also continue unabated.

“Many of these problems have only gotten worse, especially over the past year,” the House members said.

Mr. Gallagher also took issue with the American companies that each paid $40,000 per person for a seat at a private dinner with the Chinese leader while he is in California for the APEC gathering.

“It is unconscionable that American companies might pay thousands of dollars to join a ‘welcome dinner’ hosted by the very same [Chinese] officials who have facilitated a genocide against millions of innocent men, women, and children in Xinjiang,” Mr. Gallagher said, adding that his committee is investigating the groups hosting the dinner.

Two groups favoring expanded engagement and trade with Beijing, the U.S.-China Business Council and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, organized the banquet for the Chinese leader.

Space Force chief warns on China’s space ‘kill web’

Chinese military forces have set up a system designed to detect and destroy U.S. satellites as part of its space warfare capabilities, Space Force Chief of Operations Chance Saltzman said Wednesday.

The four-star Air Force general told the Atlantic Council think tank that his forces are working to develop a “responsible counter-space campaign” designed to prevent hostile powers — and China in particular — from launching surprise attacks on strategic U.S. military satellites, such as those flying in 23,000-mile-high geosynchronous orbits.

The high-altitude satellites, vital for military operations, are relatively slow-moving targets, he said.

A few of China’s anti-satellite missiles could knock out five or six key satellites, Gen. Saltzman said. In response, the Space Force is working on a “resilience” strategy that would field “hundreds” of satellites to complicate targeting.

China “has built a kill web … which increases the range and accuracy of their weapons,” Gen. Saltzman said, including sensors, communications and weapons relying on information. The web would seek to prevent U.S. forces from operating close to Chinese shores.

“We have to be able to deny the PRC access to the information — break that kill chain — so that our joint forces are not immediately in target, in range,” he said, using the acronym for People’s Republic of China.

Gen. Saltzman said that the U.S. military wants to avoid a pyrrhic victory if war breaks out in space.

 “If we think we can simply shoot down all the satellites that the PRC is going to use, then I think we’re going to set ourselves up for debris fields that actually affect our satellites as much as they affect an adversary’s satellites,” he said.

That debris threat is highlighted by a 2006 test by China of an anti-satellite missile that created a large floating debris, and a similar debris-creating Russian ASAT test in 2021.

Gen. Saltzman did not provide any details on what weapons the Space Force would use to shoot out Chinese satellites in the future.

All but one of the force’s weapons systems remains secret. The Space Force has said its single deployed weapon is an electronic jammer that can disrupt satellite signals. It is said by sources to be building other weapons for space warfare.

State Department bureau rebrand drops ‘verification’

The State Department has renamed its bureau focused on arms control, verification and compliance, in a move critics say will weaken effort to achieve meaningful arms agreements and promote a “trust, but don’t verify” policy.

The department announced Monday the relabeling of the venerable Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance as the Bureau of Arms Control, Deterrence and Stability. Officials said the name change was justified because it reflected the bureau’s work on new challenges posed by advanced technology.

The bureau plays the lead role in developing, negotiating, implementing and verifying compliance with a range of arms control and disarmament agreements and arrangements. Annual compliance reports by the bureau show that many of the arms pacts are violated by foreign signatories while the United States strictly abides by them.

The Biden administration’s 2022 national security strategy calls for reducing the role of nuclear weapons in American strategic doctrine and pursuing verifiable arms control deals as pillars of security. Those efforts so far have been met with rejection by China, which is engaged in a major nuclear missile buildup, and by Russia, which is fielding new strategic weapons not covered by past treaties or agreements.

Critics said the name change reflects the aversion of arms control bureaucrats to the hard work of enforcing treaties and verifying compliance with existing agreements.

“Arms control devotees have long disliked verification because it sets the expectation that the other side must comply,” said Marshall Billingslea, who served as special presidential envoy for arms control in the Trump administration.

Mr. Billingslea said that when the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency was moved within the State Department in 1999, the  administration of Democratic President Bill Clinton tried to eliminate the verification and compliance bureau. During the subsequent administration of President Barack Obama, “Democrats ignored that law and merged verification/compliance with arms control into one office,” Mr. Billingslea said.

“Now Biden Democrats have done away with any pretense of caring about either verification or compliance by purging all references in the bureau’s name,” he said.

Mr. Billingslea, now with the Hudson Institute, said he hopes the next administration will reverse the rebranding and restore verification and compliance to a separate bureau “so that the fox is no longer in charge of guarding the henhouse.”

Paula DeSutter, assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation from 2002 to 2009, also criticized the name change, calling it “the end of the pretense of a verification bureau” at the State Department.

The one virtue to the change, she said, is that it is more honest: “The only thing worse than no verification is the false illusion of verification, which we’ve had since 2009, best exemplified” by the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The agreement negotiated by Mr. Obama and repudiated in 2018 by President Donald Trump contained few strong verification provisions, critics warned at the time.

“As for China, luckily — unlike the Russians and Iran — they have yet to fully grasp the unilateral benefits of unverifiable and unverified arms control,” Ms. DeSutter said.

Ms. DeSutter said she hopes that reported plans for a summit deal between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping that will call for limiting the use of artificial intelligence in nuclear weapons decision-making will not assist Beijing’s effort to exploit arms control to limit U.S. capabilities.

A State Department spokesman said verification and compliance remain a core mission for the renamed bureau and is reflected in the arms control portion of the new name.

“In particular, the United States remains committed to bringing Russia back into compliance with its obligations under the New START Treaty, especially the verification regime. The United States also sees verification and compliance as playing central roles in a U.S.-Russia post-New START framework,” the spokesman said.

• Contact Bill Gertz on X @BillGertz.

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