US To Publish Photos of Chinese Military Build-Up
Pentagon will use satellite imagery and related photo analysis for activities in China that pose risks to U.S. national security in a new report available for public on June 25.
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which oversees U.S. spy satellite imagery, is preparing to produce public reports on China’s military.
The law calls on Vice Adm. Robert G. Sharp, NGA director, to launch the open-source project on the Chinese military by June 25.
The legislation specifies that Adm. Sharp will use satellite imagery and related photo analysis for activities in China that pose risks to U.S. national security. Reports by the agency will be posted on websites.
Targets of the intelligence program outlined in law include all “notable” activities of the ground, navy, air force and rocket forces of China’s People’s Liberation Army. An additional focus will be the PLA’s Strategic Support Force, the relatively new military branch in charge of military spying and cyberintelligence and space warfare.
China’s internal security forces, the People’s Armed Police, and the Communist China's coast guard, which have conducted military-style activities in the South China Sea, also are included on the NGA tasking list.
Congress also wants the NGA program to use its imagery capabilities to monitor Beijing's land reclamation efforts in the South China Sea.
“Sharing facts about Chinese military activities
is not just good for democracy; it is also smart diplomacy”
Also covered will be global health threats, including indications and warnings of disease outbreaks in China with pandemic potential, along with analyses of China’s record on climate change and environmental degradation.
Some U.S. researchers already are conducting satellite photo research on the Chinese military.
Commercial satellite photos have al- ready revealed a number of key aspects of PLA military bases and weapons, including imagery of an underwater tunnel used by Chinese submarines on Hainan Island in the South China Sea; construction of a Chinese aircraft carrier at a shipyard; and expansion of China’s first overseas military base, located in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.
Other photos have shown mock-ups of Taiwanese government buildings and military bases that analysts say are indications of Chinese military planning for an attack on Taiwan.
"Half a decade late"
Retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell, a former Pacific Fleet intelligence director, said the federal open-source program on the Chinese military is urgently needed. He said he has advocated for U.S. intelligence to make public details of China’s military activities for years.
This is at least half a decade late, especially when we see what the PRC’s South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative is doing every day, Capt. Fanell stated.
China’s probing initiative is a pro- Beijing network of mainly Chinese academics and retired military personnel who seek to promote Beijing’s official narrative that most of the South China Sea is Chinese maritime territory.