Report: Chinese Nationals Posing as Tourists to Access U.S. Military Bases

Missile Launch Military Base

by Mary Chastain at

The Wall Street Journal reported that the government started investigating reports of Chinese nationals posing as tourists to gain access to U.S. military bases at least 100 times in the past few years:

The Defense Department, FBI and other agencies held a review last year to try to limit these incidents, which involve people whom officials have dubbed gate-crashers because of their attempts—either by accident or intentionally—to get onto U.S. military bases and other installations without proper authorization. They range from Chinese nationals found crossing into a U.S. missile range in New Mexico to what appeared to be scuba divers swimming in murky waters near a U.S. government rocket-launch site in Florida.

The incidents, which U.S. officials describe as a form of espionage, appear designed to test security practices at U.S. military installations and other federal sites. Officials familiar with the practice say the individuals are typically Chinese nationals pressed into service and required to report back to the Chinese government.

The FBI said, “The Chinese government is engaged in a broad, diverse campaign of theft and malign influence without regard to laws or international norms that the FBI will not tolerate.”

The Chinese Embassy brushed off the allegations: “We urge the relevant U.S. 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.”

A few incidents appear harmless, like lost tourists who took the wrong turn due to Google Maps telling them the closest restaurant is on a military base.

A few incidents appear harmless, like lost tourists who took the wrong turn due to Google Maps telling them the closest restaurant is on a military base.

But there are frightening encounters, too:

Officials described incidents in which Chinese nationals say they have a reservation at an on-base hotel. In a recent case, a group of Chinese nationals claiming they were tourists, tried to push past guards at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, saying they had reservations at a commercial hotel on the base. The base is home to the Army’s 11th Airborne Division, which is focused on Arctic warfare.

These cases at times occur in rural areas where officials indicate there is little tourism far from a commercial airport. The individuals use what appears to be scripted language when confronted by security guards, according to officials familiar with the tactics. When stopped, the Chinese nationals say they are tourists and have lost their way.

We learned in May that Chinese nationals posed as tourists to access military bases in Alaska:

In one incident, a vehicle with Chinese citizens blew past a security checkpoint at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, several soldiers told USA TODAY. The vehicle was eventually stopped, and a search found a drone inside the vehicle. The occupants claimed they were tourists who had gotten lost.

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