U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan released a statement following a May 31 USA Today report about attempts by Chinese spies – disguised as tourists – to breach military installations in Alaska.
“Whether it’s a Chinese spy balloon, Russian Bear Bombers, or this new reporting of suspected Chinese spies in Alaska, this is another wake-up call that we are in a new era of authoritarian aggression led by dictators in China and Russia,” Sullivan said. “It’s also another example of just how important Alaska is for America’s national defense. In my oversight role, I am pressing for more details on these alleged security breaches and will continue to work with the Defense Department to ensure our installations in Alaska remain secure.”
According to the USA Today report, suspected Chinses spies have made multiple attempts in recent years to enter Alaska military facilities.
Citing unnamed military soldiers, USA Today notes that one incident involved a vehicle with Chinese citizens who drove through a security checkpoint at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks. After stopping the vehicle, an inspection found a drone inside. The occupants claimed they were lost tourists.
“Many of the encounters have been chalked up to innocent mistakes by foreign visitors intent on viewing the northern lights and other attractions in Alaska,” USA Today reported. “Other attempts to enter U.S. military bases, however, seem to be probes to learn about U.S. military capabilities in Alaska, according to multiple soldiers familiar with the incidents but who were not authorized to speak publicly about them.”
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David Deptula, a retired three-star Air Force general, told USA Today that a primary concern about these intrusions entails what spies leave behind, namely sensors that might pick up sensitive communications.
Alaska contains three large U.S. military bases – Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, and Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks – along with several smaller sites.
“Once regarded as a backwater in the military, Alaska has seen the Pentagon increasingly funnel resources and troops to the state in recent years as competition in the Arctic heats up,” USA Today reported. “The state is also seen as key to homeland defense given its proximity to Russia, the ballistic missile threat from North Korea and, increasingly, China.”
The now notorious Chinese spy balloon that drifted over America last year was first spotted in U.S. airspace over Alaska. Equipped with sophisticated sensors, the balloon was eventually shot down near South Carolina, but not before flying over multiple U.S. military instillations.