GOP bill would study security threat posed by Chinese-held debt

A House GOP bill to reauthorize U.S. defense spending for the next fiscal year would require a study on the amount of U.S. debt held by China and the extent to which that debt poses a national security risk.

The House Armed Services Committee will mark up the National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 1540, on Wednesday. Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said the inclusion of language on security risks posed by debt held by China is warranted by Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, who said last June that the national debt is the "biggest national security threat" faced by the United States.

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"Admiral Mullen was right to warn that America's debt is a national security concern that must be addressed," McKeon said. "This year's annual defense authorization bill will help Congress truly understand how much leverage China might have over the United States because of our debt, as well as the national security implications associated with the federal government's out-of-control spending."

Under section 1225 of the bill, the Congressional Budget Office would be directed to make public the amount of accrued interest on U.S. debt paid to China during the last five years. It would also ask the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence to assess what security risks the outstanding debt and interest payments pose to the United States.

Aside from general fears that mounting U.S. debt gives China and other countries increasing leverage over U.S. policy decisions, some Republicans have charged publicly that interest payments to China pose a more basic threat in that they could help fund expanded military purchases by the Chinese government.

The bill also hits China in other ways. Section 3112 would limit funding for a "Center of Excellence on Nuclear Security" in China to $7 million until the Secretary of Energy submits two reports to Congress that explain the rationale for this center.

Section 1221 calls for a report on the ability of both China and Iran to use technology to prevent access to certain regions, or so-called "anti-access capabilities." The bill says these reports are needed given the "potentially grave threats posed by these capabilities to U.S. national security and stability in the western Pacific and Middle East."

While some Republicans have called on reduced aid to Pakistan after Osama bin Laden was found hiding near Islamabad, the bill extends funding to beef up Pakistan's counterinsurgency capabilities for one year.