In recent years, suspected Chinese spies posing as tourists have attempted to gain access to U.S. military bases in Alaska, according to statements from multiple military officials.
Unnamed soldiers and personnel who spoke anonymously with USA Today said that in one incident, a vehicle with Chinese citizens blew past a security checkpoint at the Fort Wainwright Army Base.
While officials consider some encounters to have been innocent mistakes, others are viewed as legitimate probes to assess U.S. military capabilities. One Army officer stated bluntly that they are foreign spies.
Most of the encounters with Chinese nationals have remained classified, though officials have been vocal about the threat China poses.
“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,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said during a speech at Texas A&M University in April.
Previously, he stated that a conuterintelligence operation into China is opened as often as every 12 hours.
Last fall, a Chinese guided missile cruiser traveling with two other Chinese vessels and four Russian ships were discovered about 86 miles off the coast of Alaska.
“While the formation has operated in accordance with international rules and norms, we will meet presence-with-presence to ensure there are no disruptions to US interests in the maritime environment around Alaska,” Rear Admiral Nathan Moore, Seventeenth Coast Guard District commander, said at the time.
The U.S. maintains nine military bases in Alaska. As USA Today explains, Defense Department officials have steadily increased resources and troops to the state, as competition in the region has surged. It’s also a location of strategic importance, given its close proximity to Russia and ballistic missile threat from North Korea and China.
Following that incidents, some military sites in Alaska have increased their security.
“We take the safety and security of our people in our installations very seriously,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said recently in remarks quoted by USA Today. “We always live with the possibility of intrusion on our installations, and so we work very hard to make sure, working alongside state and local authorities and others, that those bases and installations are protected from threats. We take a lot of measures to do that. And we’re going to make sure we can continue to protect our installation so our folks can perform their missions.”