HomeGlobal Defence UpdatesEnemy within? China is buying land around American military bases

Enemy within? China is buying land around American military bases

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Just when the US is trying to contain China in the South China Sea and plans to deter it from invading Taiwan, China is creeping close to military bases within the US. Recently, a nuclear missile base in Wyoming was seen to be under the Chinese threat.

The US government last month blocked a Chinese-backed cryptocurrency mining firm from owning land near Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, calling its proximity to the base a “national security risk”, AP reported. The order forced the divestment of property operated as a crypto mining facility near the base. MineOne Partners Ltd., a firm partly backed by Chinese nationals, and its affiliates were also required to remove certain equipment on the site.

MineOne purchased the land that is within one mile of the Air Force base in Cheyenne in 2022, and according to the the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the purchase was not reported to the committee as required until after the panel received a public tip, as per the AP report.

Spies on tractors?

Last week, the New York Post reported that China has been buying up strategically placed farmland next to military installations across the US, raising national security fears over potential espionage or even sabotage.

The Post has identified 19 bases across the US from Florida to Hawaii which are in close proximity to land bought up by Chinese entities and could be exploited by spies working for the communist nation. They include some of the military’s most strategically important bases: Fort Liberty (formerly Fort Bragg) in Fayetteville, North Carolina; Fort Cavazos (formerly Fort Hood) in Killeen, Texas; Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California, and MacDill air force base in Tampa, Florida.

Under the guise of farming, the Chinese landowners could set up reconnaissance sights, install tracking technology, use radar and infra-red scanning to view bases or attempt to fly drones over them as ways to surveil military sites, sources told the Post.

The curious case of a Chinese billionaire

Three years ago, Texas lawmakers had blocked a Chinese billionaire from setting up a wind farm near Laughlin Air Force Base, , a training ground for military pilots, over fears it could be used to hack into the state’s power grid besides spying on the military. Sun Guangxin had bought 140,000 acres in Val Verde for nearly $110 million, Forbes reported. Sun set aside 15,000 acres of that land for his company GH America Energy LLC to oversee the construction of a wind farm that could feed into Texas’ electricity grid. critics alleged that a wind farm controlled by a Chinese company would seek to tamper with, or even shut down, the embattled Texas energy grid; some speculated the turbines would be used to gather military intelligence on the activities of nearby Laughlin Air Force Base, as per the Forbes report. Sun’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party — including his company hiring army and government officials, and his personal relationship with authorities in China’s Xinjiang province — drew the attention of local and national politicians.

In 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbot signed the Lone Star Infrastructure Protection Act, a bill that banned companies controlled by individuals who are citizens of China, Iran, North Korea and Russia from accessing Texas’ electrical grid and other “critical infrastructure” assets. In 2023, 15 states passed laws regulating foreign ownership of US land; 20 more states are looking to do the same this year. Last year, Republican Congressman Dan Newhouse reintroduced a bill to require the president to prohibit entities associated with China’s government from buying US agricultural land.

Chinese nationals sneaking into sensitive sites

Chinese nationals have sneaked into military bases and other sensitive US sites more than 100 times in recent years, as the Wall Street Journal reported last year.

Alarming cases include people crossing into a US missile range in New Mexico and scuba divers swimming near a rocket launch site and Kennedy Space Center in Florida, officials told the Wall Street Journal.

Many would-be intruders claim to be confused tourists who think they have a reservation at an on-base hotel — and they often use what appears to be scripted language when confronted by security, the report said. Multiple federal agencies, including the Defense Department and FBI and other agencies, held a review in 2022 on how to limit the attempts, which officials told the WSJ were viewed as a form of espionage.

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