Chinese man charged with U.S. aviation 'espionage'

Clay Curtis
October 11, 2018

The Justice Department unsealed charges Wednesday against a suspected Chinese spy for allegedly conducting economic espionage and trying to steal trade secrets from USA aerospace companies. It has also been implicated in a major hack of a Navy contractor developing undersea warfare capabilities, including secret plans to build a supersonic anti-ship missile for use on US submarines by 2020.

According to The Washington Post, the man was arrested after being lured to Belgium by United States agents and is suspected of having carried out his crimes since around December 2013. The U.S. says that Xu has been conspiring to do this since 2013.

The two have also feuded over U.S. support for Taiwan, Chinese weapons purchases from Russian Federation and China's territorial claims in the South China Sea - where the U.S. says a Chinese destroyer came aggressively close to a U.S. Navy ship late last month, forcing it to maneuver to prevent a collision.

The announcement came as tensions escalate between Washington and Beijing over geopolitics, trade, hacking and corporate espionage.

"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", said CrowdStrike Chief Technology Officer Dmitri Alperovitch.

A Chinese spy who allegedly attempted to steal trade secrets from several American aviation and aerospace companies was charged Wednesday and extradited to the U.S.

GE Aviation is a top manufacturer of jet and turboprop engines and components for commercial, military, business and general aviation aircraft.

They say he invited employees to travel to China for an "exchange of ideas" or under the guise of delivering university presentations.

FBI Counterintelligence Assistant Director Bill Priestap said the arrest and extradition are unprecedented and "exposes the Chinese government's direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States".

A senior justice department official said the case was "part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense".

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"We can not tolerate a nation's stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower".

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang called the accusations a "pure fabrication".

Kang added that Beijing hoped that "the U.S. side can deal with this in accordance with law".

Lawyers for Xu didn't immediately respond to email messages seeking comment.

The maximum penalty for conspiracy and attempt to commit economic espionage in the United States is 15 years, and it is 10 years for conspiracy and attempts to steal trade secrets.

The ministry of state security is China's intelligence and security agency, responsible for counterintelligence, foreign intelligence and political security.

Chris Painter, the former U.S. State Department official who negotiated the agreement, said in a Twitter post it was "not surprising that now the relationship has deteriorated, so has the agreement".

Xu was arrested in Belgium in April and recently extradited to the United States-the first ever such case for a Chinese MSS official, according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman.

He has been transferred to the US for prosecution on economic espionage charges, US Justice Department officials said.

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