Two officials from the Chinese Embassy to the US were reportedly expelled from the US, following them driving on to a sensitive military base in Virginia, the NYT reported.
The report cited anonymous US officials and it allegedly took place in September 2019.
The alleged expulsion is the first time Chinese diplomats have been suspected of espionage for over 30 years.
Six anonymous people with knowledge of the situation said that at least one of the Chinese was an undercover intelligence official.
The two Chinese embassy officials even had their wives with them in their cars, evaded military personnel that were chasing after them, and only stopped after fire trucks blocked their path.
Neither Washington nor Beijing have officially announced this, but according to NYT, it underlines the espionage danger that China poses. American intelligence officials say China poses a greater espionage threat than any other country.
According to the cited anonymous officials, Chinese officials with diplomatic passports in recent months constantly show up unannounced at US research and government facilities, but the September incident was the boldest one yet.
On October 16th, weeks after the alleged incident, US State Department announced sharp restrictions on the activities of Chinese diplomats, requiring them to provide notice before meeting with local or state officials or visiting educational and research institutions.
An unnamed senior State Department official told reporters that the rule, which applied to all Chinese Missions in the United States and its territories, was a response to Chinese regulations that were already in effect, requiring US diplomats to request permission to leave their host cities in China.
The Chinese Embassy said in October that the new rules were “in violation of the Vienna Convention.”
The intrusion that allegedly took place in September was on a sensitive facility near Norfolk, Virginia. The anonymous sources said the base included Special Operations Forces.
“The Chinese officials and their wives drove up to a checkpoint for entry to the base, said people briefed on the episode. A guard, realizing that they did not have permission to enter, told them to go through the gate, turn around and exit the base, which is common procedure in such situations.
But the Chinese officials instead continued on to the base, according to those familiar with the incident. After the fire trucks blocked them, the Chinese officials indicated that they had not understood the guard’s English instructions, and had simply gotten lost, according to people briefed on the matter.”
Both the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Embassy in Washington didn’t even reply to a request for a comment.
But two associates of Chinese embassy officials said that the expelled individuals were on a sightseeing tour when they accidentally drove onto the base.
US State Department, as well as the FBI refused to provide a comment.
China hasn’t responded with any expulsions of its own, but it allegedly asked if the expulsions were in response to Chinese state media publishing personal information of US Diplomat Julie Eadah back in August 2019. Footage was published of her speaking to leaders of the Hong Kong “pro-demoracy” protesters, and was accused of coordinating them.
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