The United States had expelled two Chinese embassy officials in September after they drove onto a military base in Virginia, according to international media. At least one of the diplomats was believed to be an intelligence officer operating undercover. The expulsion has lead to tension between the two sides.
International media reported that diplomats accompanied by their wives drove up to the checkpoint at the entrance of the sensitive installation near Norfolk, Virginia that included the special operations forces. None of them had permissions to enter so the security guard directed them to go through gates, turn around and exit. One of the Chinese officials continued onto the base, evading military personnel who were pursuing them. They were finally forced to stop by fire trucks blocking their path. The Chinese officials claimed that they had not understood the instructions given in the English language and were lost, but the US personnel seemed unconvinced by their explanation.
The motive for the incursion was not clear, but US officials believe that the Chinese diplomats were hoping to test the security measures at the base. According to international media, the two officials were expelled. Neither of the two countries had made the incident public and apparently, Beijing did not respond with tit-for-tat expulsions of US diplomats in China.
On October 16, the state department issued, new sharp restrictions on Chinese diplomats which require them to provide notice before meeting with local or state officials or visiting educationals or research institutes. American officials have said that China poses more espionage threat than any other country. In recent months, Chinese officials with diplomatic passports have become bolder about showing up unannounced at research or govt facilities, they added. The recent episodes of suspected spying add to broader tensions between the US and China as they wrangle over trade. The conflict was heightened by a trade war that President Trump started in 2018 July. On Friday, the two sides announced a mini deal to reduce some tariffs and deescalate the tensions.