WASHINGTON — The U.S. quietly expelled two Chinese Embassy officials on suspicions of espionage after they improperly drove onto a sensitive U.S. military facility in Virginia in September, two U.S. officials familiar with the matter said.
The incident highlights what U.S. officials have said is Beijing’s increasingly aggressive intelligence-gathering operations against the U.S., which have heightened tensions between the two economic superpowers even as they try to reach accord on trade and other issues.
The expulsion of the officials, whose names couldn’t be learned, took place as President Trump was trying to reach a broad trade agreement with China, and while he was under pressure to take a more forceful stance backing student protesters in Hong Kong.
Neither side has publicly acknowledged the incident, which was earlier reported by the New York Times. It is believed to be the first time the U.S. has expelled Chinese diplomats for suspected espionage in more than 30 years.
The incident in September occurred at a sensitive installation in the Norfolk, Va., area, those familiar with the episode said. The two officials from the Chinese Embassy in Washington tried to gain access to the base but were turned away, one U.S. official said. Nonetheless, they drove about a mile onto the base before they were stopped and detained, U.S. officials said.
Also popular on WSJ.com: