China's Secret Weapon

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs commented yesterday on the conviction of Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky on embezzlement and money laundering charges by a Russian court. He said that the administration is “deeply concerned” and “troubled by the allegations of serious due process violations, and what appears to be an abusive use of the legal system for improper ends.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also had some strong words, saying that the conviction “raises serious questions about selective prosecution -- and about the rule of law being overshadowed by political considerations.” She added that these types of cases have a “negative impact on Russia’s reputation” and international standing. Khodorkovsky and his supporters say that the charges are trumped-up and he was put on trial because of his support for Russia’s opposition. Russia’s Foreign Ministry responded today: “Judgements about some kind of selective application of justice in Russia are without foundation.”

The head U.S. commander in the Pacific, Admiral Robert Willard, said that a Chinese ballistic missile designed to counter U.S. aircraft carriers in the region is now operational, and earlier than many had expected. Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted a few months ago that the introduction of the missile would require the Pentagon to deploy its carriers in new ways, since the Chinese would have “a highly accurate anti-ship cruise or ballistic missile that can take out a carrier at hundreds of miles of ranges.” The Pentagon knew the missile was being developed and has already begun thinking about how to deal with the threat.

Meanwhile, the WikiLeaks fallout continues. Arturo Valenzuela, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said that he had apologized to Peru for the leaked cables, one of which noted that the country’s president has a “colossal ego.” Another linked the military to drug corruption.