Chinese nationals have reportedly attempted to access US government sites up to 100 times in recent years, leading American officials to suspect that these individuals, who often claim to be tourists, are actually spies. The Wall Street Journal reported on these claims, citing anonymous sources. However, Beijing has denied engaging in any espionage activities against the United States.
According to officials interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, these “gate-crashers” have been found near off-limits American facilities, with incidents including instances of Chinese tourists walking onto a missile range in New Mexico and scuba diving near a missile launch site in Florida. Some of these incidents may be considered benign, with the individuals explaining that they were following Google Maps to a nearby McDonald’s or other fast-food restaurants located on military bases. However, officials have expressed concern over other incursions that occur in areas with little tourism.
When Chinese nationals are caught trespassing on US military bases, they are usually detained briefly and then escorted off the premises, according to unnamed US officials. However, in some cases, individuals have entered bases by speeding through security checkpoints. These individuals are often cited criminally and barred from future access to installations, says Pentagon spokeswoman Sue Gough.
The United States officials claim that the Chinese nationals often use what appears to be scripted language when confronted by security, insisting that they are tourists who have lost their way. In response to these allegations, Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington, dismissed them as “purely ill-intentioned fabrications” and urged the US to abandon the Cold War mentality, stop making groundless accusations, and instead focus on improving relations between the two countries.
The relationship between Washington and Beijing has already been strained due to espionage concerns. In early February, the US shot down a Chinese balloon over North America, claiming that it had attempted to surveil strategic sites. China argued that it was a civilian airship that had strayed into US airspace due to exceptional circumstances. However, in late June, the Pentagon stated that they believed the balloon had not collected any intelligence.
The issue of potential espionage by Chinese nationals has raised concerns about the security of US government sites. While some incidents may be innocent mistakes, others raise suspicions and call for heightened vigilance. The US and China will need to address these concerns and work towards ensuring mutual trust in order to maintain stable relations between the two countries.