Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief sends warning shot to China

THE TOPLINE: Defense Secretary Ash Carter is warning China against militarizing the South China Sea where it has territorial disputes with a number of countries.

"China must not pursue militarization in the South China Sea," Carter said in a pointed speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Tuesday. "Specific actions will have specific consequences."

China has built up artificial islands and placed military aircraft and surface-to-air missiles on one of the disputed islands.

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"These activities have the potential to increase the risk of miscalculation or conflict among claimant states," Carter said.

Carter said the U.S. would continue to conduct freedom of navigation operations in the region, where China and other nations claim islands.

The U.S. is not taking sides in the territorial dispute, but argues it must be settled peacefully.

But Carter said the U.S. would continue to freely sail through international waters.

"It should be clear that the U.S. military will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all over the world. Because the maritime domain must always be open and free to all," he said.

"We all have a fundamental stake in the security of maritime Asia, including in the South China Sea. Nearly 30 percent of the world's maritime trade transits its waters annually, including approximately $1.2 trillion in shipping trade bound for the United States," he said.

Carter also slammed China and Russia for restricting Internet access, and sponsoring cyber attacks.

"China and Russia, for example, are pursuing a different vision – one predicated on absolute government control of the Internet, anti-access policies like the 'Great Firewall,' state-sponsored cyber theft, including theft of intellectual property, cyber espionage, and also cyber crime," he said.

"Clearly this approach is contrary to the values we share as a nation here in the United States."

 

DOD CHIEF GOES TO SILICON VALLEY: Defense Secretary Ash Carter is spending Tuesday meeting with tech leaders in Silicon Valley amid a Pentagon push to combat terrorists in cyberspace, writes The Hill's Cory Bennett.

Carter said the trip is part of his efforts to "rebuild bridges between the Department of Defense and some of our nation's most innovative industries."

The two sides have been at odds since government leaker Edward Snowden in 2013 revealed the extent of the government's secret surveillance efforts.

The defense chief is discussing cybersecurity initiatives as well as other tech capabilities with the executives.

The military has been increasingly trying to tap Silicon Valley for talent as it ramps up its own cyber capabilities. The Pentagon is in the midst of building out the half-staffed U.S. Cyber Command.

The cyber division is expected to reach 6,200 personnel across 133 teams by 2018.

Carter on Monday acknowledged that the military had recently launched an aggressive cyber war campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that is targeting the terrorist group's ability to communicate digitally and disseminate propaganda.

Silicon Valley could be a valuable partner in these efforts. ISIS is known to use popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to recruit and spread propaganda.

 

REPUBLICANS COULD BLOCK GITMO RETURNING TO CUBA: The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee signaled Tuesday that an annual defense policy bill could include a provision that would block the Obama administration from turning over Naval Station Guantanamo Bay to Cuba.

During the committee's annual "Member Day," when lawmakers who aren't on the panel lay out what they would like to see in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Rep. Ted YohoTheodore (Ted) Scott YohoHaley: Giuliani should've been named 'special envoy' to Ukraine GOP lawmakers express concerns about Giuliani's work in Ukraine CNN slams GOP for not appearing on network after mass shootings, conservatives fire back MORE (R-Fla.) suggested a provision to prevent a president from unilaterally returning the land to Cuba.

Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said Yoho raised interesting points.

"I appreciate the gentleman's suggestions," he said. "We did have a provision in last year's NDAA to prevent the transfer of the naval base back to Cuba, but I think the gentleman raises a number of interesting questions about how to strengthen that or make it more permanent."

The Obama administration has repeatedly denied any intention of giving up the base to Cuba as the president pushes to close the detention facility there.

But there is speculation among Republicans that Obama could turn the base over to Cuba after he announced plans to travel to the country and unveiled his proposal for closing the military prison.

The United States has leased the land where the base stands since 1903. Cuban President Raúl Castro says he wants it returned to his country as part of normalizing relations with the United States.

Yoho proposed to the committee legislation that would require Congress to sign off on any modifications to the lease.

"It's such a strategic place," he said.

 

ON TAP FOR WEDNESDAY:

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) looks at worldwide threats on Wednesday, 10 a.m. at Rayburn 2118.

House Appropriations examines the Air Force's 2017 budget request Wednesday, 10 a.m. at Capitol H-140.

House Armed Services looks at ground force modernization Wednesday, 1 p.m. at Rayburn 2212.

House Armed Services will also look at the fiscal 2017 budget request for the Pentagon's nuclear forces, 2 p.m. at Rayburn 2118.

 

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