U.S. intelligence to focus less on threat, more on areas of possible cooperation with China

March 6, 2009

By East-Asia Intel.com

Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, wants to seek more cooperation with China instead of focusing intelligence resources on the threat posed by Beijing’s military.

In written answers to questions posed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Blair made clear that he will direct agencies to look for opportunities other than dealing with threats related to China.

“While the United States must understand China’s military buildup — its extent, its technological sophistication and its vulnerabilities — in order to offset it, the Intelligence Community also needs to support policymakers who are looking for opportunities to work with Chinese leaders, who believe that Asia is big enough for both of us, and can be an Asia in which both countries can benefit as well as contribute to the common good,” Blair wrote.

His comment is a clear signal that efforts to spy on China will be diminished under his leadership, rather than previous intelligence policies that sought to focus resources on understanding the closed-nature of Chinese communist rulers and military decision-making.

Blair recently appointed Charles Freeman, a pro-China advocate, to head the powerful National Intelligence Council, which produces National Intelligence Estimates.

Freeman told a private Internet China forum several years ago that the Chinese response to the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 was justified. Thousands of unarmed Chinese were killed or injured during the crackdown.

Blair said that good intelligence is needed to understand China but sought to dismiss concerns that China is “bent on asserting military power far from its shores.”

“To understand China’s plans in this area is an important task for U.S. intelligence,” he said. “The task includes a careful examination of China’s actions, including the military systems it is building, its military relations with other countries, its exercise program, and its diplomacy. The task also includes a careful examination of the internal debate in China on this topic, both the public debate and the official debate.”

Blair said intelligence analysis of China should seek to answer the question of whether China is in the first stages of power projection or only seeks a limited capability “that will pose no serious threat to U.S. interests.”

He pledged to make it a priority of U.S. intelligence to “understand both the reality of Chinese actions and the range of Chinese intentions.”

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