Alaskan military base probed by suspected Chinese spies dressed as tourists
June 5, 2023

Suspected Chinese spies allegedly posing as tourists are accused of attempting to infiltrate a military base in Alaska.

Multiple attempts to gain access to military facilities have been reported, including an incident at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, where a vehicle carrying Chinese citizens broke through a security checkpoint. Subsequently, a search revealed a drone inside the vehicle, despite the occupants claiming to be lost tourists.

Encounters have been dismissed as innocent mistakes, others appear to be deliberate attempts to gather information about U.S. military capabilities in Alaska. These incidents have prompted the involvement of the FBI and the Department of Justice, who take over cases related to suspected espionage. FBI Director Christopher Wray has repeatedly warned about Chinese government-sponsored espionage activities and has emphasized the threat posed by the Chinese communist government.

The state hosts several large military bases, including Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Fort Wainwright, and Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks. The presence of advanced military assets, such as F-22 and F-35 fighter jets, sophisticated radars, and missile systems, makes Alaska a prime target for intelligence gathering.

The region’s vast wilderness and its proximity to Russia, North Korea’s ballistic missile threat, and China’s increasing presence contribute to the escalating tensions. Alaska’s expansive territory allows the Pentagon to conduct large-scale military exercises, attracting troops and warplanes from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The recent Northern Edge war game involved thousands of personnel training against potential adversaries like Russia and China.

David Deptula, a retired Air Force general, noted that the threat lies not only in what is taken but also in what is left behind. The presence of these suspected Chinese spies underscores the need to enhance security measures at military sites.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington has not responded to requests for comment, leaving many questions unanswered. However, the Pentagon remains committed to ensuring the safety and security of military installations in Alaska. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks acknowledged the possibility of intrusion and emphasized the measures being taken to protect these bases.

As global warming opens up new shipping lanes in the Arctic, Alaska’s remoteness and extreme climate no longer provide sufficient security against prying eyes. Additionally, China’s increased fishing activities in the region add another dimension to the escalating tensions. In response, the Pentagon has increased its focus on the Arctic and bolstered security measures at military sites in Alaska.

Over the 1,100-mile-long archipelago of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, a Chinese spy balloon equipped with cutting-edge sensors made its maiden foray into American aircraft in the last days of January. The state’s long-range radar facilities, which were before tuned to identify only Russian jets, have been capable of picking up Chinese surveillance balloons.

The deputy defense secretary recently took a visit to Alaska, but he avoided mentioning any potential cases of Chinese espionage in favor of talking about base security. For snapping pictures at the Naval Air Station Key West in Florida without permission in 2019, a Chinese student was given a year in jail. Zhao Qianli, 20, was simply a tourist who got lost, according to his attorney, but the military installation is not a popular destination for tourists, and his camera and mobile had only photos from the air station.

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