Fri, Oct 12, 2018 - Page 7 News List

US charges spy for Chinese ministry

ECONOMIC ESPIONAGE:Xu Yanjun, of the Chinese Ministry of State Security, was detained in Belgium in April after an FBI probe and extradited to the US on Tuesday

Reuters, WASHINGTON

The US Department of Justice on Wednesday said it had arrested and indicted a spy for the Chinese Ministry of State Security on charges of economic espionage and attempting to steal trade secrets from several US aviation and aerospace companies.

Chinese operative Xu Yanjun was detained in Belgium in April after an FBI probe and extradited to the US on Tuesday.

The Washington Post said he was lured to Belgium by US agents.

The FBI called it an unprecedented extradition and said the indictment showed the direct oversight of the Chinese government in economic espionage against the US.

The charges come as Washington increases pressure on Beijing over its trade policies and alleged theft of US intellectual property.

Cybersecurity experts said the arrest was another sign of the escalating trade tensions between the two nations, adding that they had seen increasing espionage by Beijing for business advantage.

“China is actively engaging in targeted and persistent intrusion attempts against multiple sectors of the economy, including biotech, defense, mining, pharmaceutical, professional services, transportation and more,” CrowdStrike chief technology officer Dmitri Alperovitch said.

A Justice Department statement said that Xu, a deputy division director for the State Security Department of Jiangsu Province, targeted several US aerospace companies, including GE Aviation, a subsidiary of General Electric Co.

It described another unnamed firm as “one of the world’s largest aerospace firms, and a leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners and defense, space and security systems,” and a third as a leader in unmanned aerial vehicle technology.

GE Aviation has supplied engines for large Boeing Co and Airbus SE aircraft, and is working on a new generation of engines for commercial planes and heavy-lift military helicopters.

The indictment against Xu said he targeted aviation firms since about December 2013.

It also said he made contact with experts working for the firms and recruited them to travel to China, often for the initial purpose of delivering a university presentation and paying their costs and a stipend.

“This unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposes the Chinese government’s direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States,” the statement quoted FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Bill Priesta as saying.

Assistant US Attorney General for National Security John Demers said the case was not an isolated incident.

“It is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense,” he said. “We cannot tolerate a nation stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower.”

The Chinese embassy and Xu’s lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The maximum penalty for conspiracy and attempt to commit economic espionage is 15 years, while that for conspiracy and attempt to steal trade secrets is 10 years.

The Ministry of State Security is China’s intelligence and security agency and is responsible for counterintelligence, foreign intelligence and political security.

Cybersecurity experts said former US president Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) had reached an understanding in 2015 on cyberespionage, but the agreement appeared be withering away.

Chris Painter, a former US Department of State official who negotiated the agreement, said in a Twitter post it was “not surprising that now the relationship has deteriorated, so has the agreement.”

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