Tensions between China and the US have risen dramatically in recent years, and the revelations have led the latter to fear that the former is now using civilians to dig up potentially sensitive information that could aid in the CCP's efforts.
According to the Wall Street Journal, approximately 10,000 "controlled turnarounds" are recorded at military bases across the nation, mostly involving people who simply took a wrong turn. In some cases, however, factors were present that warranted further investigation.
Chinese nationals have been spotted taking pictures at US army ranges, swimming near military facilities, and even using drones to obtain aerial footage of sites.
In 2020, three Chinese nationals were arrested after illegally entering a naval air base in Key West, Florida. They ultimately pleaded guilty and were sentenced to around a year in prison. Cape Canaveral, which is the site of the Kennedy Space Center, has also been targeted. None of the trespassers were charged with espionage, however, two couples were ordered to leave the country in 2019 after attempting to drive into a military base in Virginia.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reiterated in a statement to the WSJ that the CCP "is engaged in a broad, diverse campaign of theft and malign influence without regard to laws or international norms."
A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC dismissed the allegations as "purely ill-intentioned fabrications," adding, "We urge the relevant US officials to abandon the Cold War mentality, stop groundless accusations, and do more things that are conducive to enhancing mutual trust between the two countries and friendship between the two peoples."
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