“Unauthorized Chinese Entry into U.S. Military Bases Raises Espionage Alarms”

“The Alarming Increase in Unauthorized Chinese Entry into U.S. Military Bases Raises Significant Espionage Concerns”

Chinese nationals, occasionally masquerading as tourists, have, in recent years, gained unauthorized access to U.S. military bases and other sensitive installations on as many as 100 occasions, according to U.S. officials. These incidents are raising considerable concerns among authorities, who view them as potential espionage threats.

In response to these intrusions, the U.S. Department of Defense, along with the FBI and other relevant agencies, conducted a comprehensive review last year to mitigate these security breaches. These breaches involve individuals referred to as “gate-crashers” by officials due to their deliberate or accidental attempts to breach U.S. military bases and other secure facilities without proper authorization. These incidents vary from instances of Chinese nationals crossing into a U.S. missile range in New Mexico to peculiar occurrences like scuba divers appearing near a U.S. government rocket-launch site in Florida’s murky waters.

U.S. officials classify these incidents as a form of espionage, suspecting that they are orchestrated to test the security protocols of U.S. military installations and federal sites. Those familiar with these activities assert that these individuals are typically Chinese nationals who are compelled to cooperate and report back to the Chinese government.

Many of these incidents transpire in remote, less-touristed regions, far from commercial airports. When confronted by security personnel, these individuals employ seemingly scripted responses, often claiming to be lost tourists.

The backdrop of escalating tensions between the United States and China adds to the gravity of these base intrusions. This escalation intensified following an incident earlier this year involving a Chinese balloon that flew over the U.S., purportedly carrying surveillance equipment. These incidents also highlight concerns that Beijing may be employing unconventional methods to gather intelligence within U.S. borders, whether through proximity to military bases or the utilization of Chinese-manufactured commercial equipment for potential espionage purposes.

Officials from the White House, Department of Homeland Security, and the Pentagon declined to provide specific comments on these matters, deferring inquiries to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which also chose not to comment.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington, however, has contested the U.S. perspective on these incidents, characterizing the claims as baseless and ill-intentioned fabrications. They have called on U.S. officials to abandon a Cold War mentality and instead foster mutual trust and friendship between the two nations and their peoples.

The seriousness of these incursions has prompted discussions in Congress about potential legislation to address the issue. Representative Jason Crow, a member of the intelligence committee, expressed concerns that some of these cases fall through the cracks due to the fact that most trespassing laws are at the state and local levels, not federal. He stressed the need for improved collaboration with state and local partners to enhance their training and preparedness.

While some intrusions are benign, such as individuals mistakenly following GPS directions onto military bases while seeking fast food, others are more troubling, according to sources familiar with the review.

These breaches are a known concern in intelligence circles, seen as a numbers game where the Chinese are willing to deploy a large number of individuals for intelligence collection. If a few are caught, it is challenging for the U.S. government to prove anything beyond trespassing, and those who avoid capture are likely to gather valuable information. This stands in contrast to the treatment an American might receive if caught inside China, where a fair trial is unlikely.

These base penetrations are considered a growing trend, raising alarms among U.S. military and other officials. Some individuals gain unauthorized access to bases by quickly passing through security checkpoints. They are often cited criminally, banned from future installation access, and escorted off-base. The Pentagon has conducted several security reviews since 2018, with a focus on the physical security of the approximately 1,400 gates at U.S. military bases, among other aspects of base security.

While many incidents involve individuals who are simply confused about their destination and are turned away without incident, some incidents do raise significant concerns. There have been repeated cases of Chinese nationals taking photographs at U.S. Army ranges, often starting their visits at nearby White Sands National Park before crossing into the adjacent missile site. Drones have also been used in some instances to enhance surveillance efforts.

Incidents have also occurred at an intelligence center in Key West, Florida, where Chinese nationals, claiming to be tourists, were found swimming in the waters near the military facility and taking photographs. In one notable case in 2020, three Chinese citizens were sentenced to approximately one year in prison for illegally entering the naval air station in Key West and taking photos. Another incident involved scuba diving near Cape Canaveral, a launch site for spy satellites and military missions.

Additionally, U.S. officials have reported incidents near the White House where Chinese nationals, posing as tourists, ventured beyond designated tour areas to photograph the grounds, including communication equipment and security guard positions, before being directed away by the Secret Service.

While no espionage charges have been filed in any of these cases, some individuals who deliberately trespassed on bases have been briefly detained and then escorted out of the country. One notable case involved two Chinese diplomats who were expelled from the United States on suspicion of espionage after they inappropriately entered Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, a highly sensitive U.S. military facility where U.S. Navy SEALs train. China denied any involvement in espionage activities by the diplomats.

How many times have Chinese nationals gained unauthorized access to U.S. military bases and sensitive sites in recent years?

Chinese nationals have gained unauthorized access to these sites as many as 100 times in recent years.

How do U.S. officials describe the individuals involved in these incidents?

U.S. officials refer to these individuals as “gate-crashers” due to their attempts to breach U.S. military bases and secure facilities without proper authorization.

What is the suspected motive behind these incidents of unauthorized access?

U.S. officials suspect that these incidents are a form of espionage, designed to test security practices at U.S. military installations and federal sites.

How has the Chinese Embassy in Washington responded to these allegations?

The Chinese Embassy in Washington has challenged the U.S. view of the incidents, describing the claims as ill-intentioned fabrications and calling for improved mutual trust and friendship between the two countries

What measures has the U.S. government taken to address these base intrusions?

The U.S. government is considering potential legislation on the issue, and discussions are ongoing in Congress. Additionally, the Pentagon has conducted security reviews and focused on enhancing the physical security of military bases to address these concerns.

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