PLAChina’s People’s Liberation Army

For three days beginning today, Nov. 12-14, 2013, soldiers from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will be in the United States ostensibly to participate in an emergency drill called GridEx II. (There was a Grid Ex I in November 2011.)

That’s the alarming news, according to Judi McLeod’s article in Canada Free Press: “for the first time in history the U.S. Army will host the Communist People’s Republic of China’s Army on American soil Nov. 12-14, 2013,” to simulate “humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to a fictional third country.”

What is GridEx II?

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From the New York Times, August 16, 2013:

“The electric grid […] is the glass jaw of American industry. If an adversary lands a knockout blow […] it could black out vast areas of the continent for weeks; interrupt supplies of water, gasoline, diesel fuel and fresh food; shut down communications; and create disruptions of a scale that was only hinted at by Hurricane Sandy and the attacks of Sept. 11.

This is why thousands of utility workers, business executives, National Guard officers, F.B.I. antiterrorism experts and officials from government agencies in the United States, Canada and Mexico are preparing for an emergency drill in November that will simulate physical attacks and cyberattacks that could take down large sections of the power grid.

They will practice for a crisis unlike anything the real grid has ever seen, and more than 150 companies and organizations have signed up to participate. […]One goal of the drill, called GridEx II, is to explore how governments would react as the loss of the grid crippled the supply chain for everyday necessities. […] experts fear government-sponsored hacking.” 

Indeed, in April 2009, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation(NERC) issued a public notice warning that the Electrical Grid is not adequately protected from cyber-warfare. (NERC is a nonprofit corporation that’s the successor to the National Electric Reliability Council formed in 1968 by the electric utility industry to promote the reliability and adequacy of bulk power transmission in the electric utility systems of North America.)

The New York Times report on GridEx II’s massive drill made no mention of Chinese participation. But China’s official Xinhua news agency does.

From Xinhua, on Nov. 6, 2013:

The U.S. military Pacific Commander, Samuel Locklear, said here Tuesday that a joint humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise to be held this month helps improve the relationship between the United States and China.

Locklear told a news briefing that the Pacific Command’s Army component commander in Hawaii has been looking forward to the Nov. 12-14 exercise “for some time,” as the Army will host the People’s Liberation Army soldiers of China to train together in a field environment, simulating humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to a fictional third country.

Summing up his expectations for the joint exercise, Locklear said both militaries can learn something in disaster management, and “better prepared tomorrow than yesterday.”

“In relation to our ability to do this with our Chinese counterparts,” he said, “this kind of exercise gives us a place to start, and get into the rhythm of understanding and trusting each other.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” he added. “I think it will be a great exercise.”

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The joint exercise was announced during an August visit to Washington by Chinese Minister of National Defense Chang Wanquan, as China and the United States expand their military-to-military relationship and explore cooperation opportunities in non- traditional security areas.

Is the US-China joint “humanitarian assistance and disaster relief drill” the same as the GridEx II drill? If so, what does “humanitarian assistance and disaster relief” has to do with a power grid drill?

If the US-China disaster relief drill is not the GridEx II drill, why are the two drills on the same days?

Lastly, why should Chinese PLA soldiers be allowed on U.S. soil, drill or no drill? What is to be gained from that?

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~Dr. C

Dr. C is the Editor of Consortium of Defense Analysts.