Inside the Ring

Article excerpt

MISSILE SECURITY

U.S. spy satellites recently detected increased security for Russia's road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles.

According to defense officials, the Russian military has assigned motorized infantry units to guard the nuclear-tipped SS-25 and SS-27 mobile missile brigades. Tracking the strategic missiles is a major mission of U.S. reconnaissance satellites.

Officials said reports from Russia over the past several years have indicated that the troops in charge of the missiles are poorly paid and there are fears someone in the Strategic Rocket Forces might steal one of the single-warhead missiles and sell it on the black market. Several years ago, the CIA reported secretly within the U.S. government how one SS-25 team left their missile unguarded as they stopped in a village to get something to eat.

The enhanced security for SS-25 and newly deployed SS-27 missiles is being viewed by Pentagon intelligence analysts as a sign Russia's leaders are worried that organized crime groups or terrorists could steal one of the single-warhead long-range missiles.

The SS-25 and SS-27 are the world's only deployed road-mobile ICBMs and its garrisons are scattered throughout eastern and western Russia. China is also working on a road-mobile DF-31, which was flight tested twice last year.

WANG WEI'S FATE

U.S. intelligence agencies monitoring the Chinese military search effort for a missing pilot have picked up indications of what happened to Wang Wei. His F-8 fighter jet flew into the propeller of the U.S. Navy EP-3E surveillance plane April 1, sparking the recent international incident between the United States and China.

Defense officials said intelligence reports on the search and rescue effort indicate the pilot successfully ejected after the collision over the South China Sea. But his parachute failed to open and he plummeted to his death. Initial Chinese press accounts reported that a parachute was seen shortly after the collision.

China`s government has lionized Mr. Wang as a hero and "revolutionary martyr." U.S. officials paint the picture of a reckless pilot who flew dangerously close to U.S. surveillance aircraft.

China's military recently called off what the Chinese press described as one of the most extensive search and rescue operations ever mounted by the Chinese military, involving scores of ships and aircraft and thousands of troops.

One raw U.S. intelligence report based on sensitive information-gathering techniques had a perplexing twist on the entire affair. According to defense sources, the report stated that the entire episode was a Chinese military provocation designed to disrupt or frustrate U.S. electronic eavesdropping efforts. The report said Mr. Wang had volunteered to deliberately "bump" the U.S. EP-3E and then bail out and be rescued. Officials dismissed the report as far-fetched.

PERSONNEL

The Pentagon is close to picking its choice for the much-coveted Asia post within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The leading contender for the job of deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia is Peter Brookes, a North Korea specialist who recently worked for the House International Relations Committee, defense sources told us. Other major contenders include Pat Cronan of the U.S. Institute for Peace, Thor Ronay, a China specialist with the conservative Center for Security Policy, and William Triplett, an aide to Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican.

Another deputy assistant defense secretary candidate is said to be Danielle Pletka, who is vying for the Pentagon's Near East and South Asia slot. Mrs. Pletka currently is a Middle East specialist for Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

WARNER'S PLANS

Don`t look for a John W. Warner-Donald H. …