China’s attempts to infiltrate U.S. military bases in Alaska are raising alarm bells in the Pentagon after multiple Chinese citizens tried to gain access disguised as tourists in an apparent attempt to spy on US military activities in the region.
The news comes as tensions between the two countries are already running high, with President Joe Biden being briefed on the shooting down of a Chinese spy balloon over US nuclear missile sites in February – an incident which Beijing had previously denied.
Speaking on the news, Pentagon Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Arctic and Global Resiliences, Iris Ferguson, said: ‘We take the safety and security of our people in our installations very seriously. We know that China has been trying to insert itself into the Arctic. So, we‘re being very mindful about their activity and in wanting to ensure that our interests are protected in the region.’
U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan was less diplomatic in his response: ‘Whether it’s a Chinese spy balloon, Russian Bear Bombers, or this new reporting of suspected Chinese spies in Alaska, this is another wake–up call‘.
The Associated Press reported that according to soldiers familiar with the matter, on one recent occasion, a vehicle carrying Chinese nationals drove past a security checkpoint at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks. When stopped and questioned, the occupants attempted to pass themselves off as tourists, however, a search of their car revealed a drone.
According to USA Today, though security at some military bases has since been beefed up, most of the details of these suspected Chinese spying incidents in Alaska remain classified.
The FBI has also taken note of these events – with the FBI director, Christopher Wray, warning last April of the threat from Chinese spying. ‘There is no doubt that the greatest long–term threat to our nation’s ideas, our economic security, and our national security is that posed by the Chinese communist government,’ he said. The FBI estimates that a new investigation on Chinese–sponsored espionage is opened every 12 hours.
Alaska is of particular interest to China, as it contains three of the Pentagon’s most sophisticated military capabilities – Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson in Anchorage, and Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks. Furthermore, its vast terrain hosts the annual Northern Edge war game which invites troops and warplanes from the US, UK, and Australia to train against military adversaries such as Russia and China.
The U.S. Department of Defense has said it is taking a number of steps to ensure bases in Alaska remain secure and that it will ‘continue to protect our installation so our folks can perform their missions.’ The Pentagon has yet to comment on the recent incident of a Chinese fighter jet getting dangerously close to a US Air Force plane.
For now, all eyes are on how China will respond. With increased surveillance, measures to protect our assets, and a growing voice from the U.S. to China on the matter, it’s likely to be a new era in the country’s relationship with the East Asian superpower.
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