Lawmakers are raising the alarm over a Chinese company’s purchase of more than 300 acres of farmland just 20 minutes from an Air Force base in North Dakota. The intelligence community believes the Chinese company’s proposed location is optimal for spying on the U.S. military.
The U.S. subsidiary of FuFeng Group – based in Shandong, China – purchased hundreds of acres of farmland near Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota to supposedly build a corn-milling plant, Grand Forks Region Economic Development announced last year. Lawmakers and the intelligence community are concerned the location would give China unprecedented access to U.S. military operations.
CNBC reported Thursday it obtained a memo composed by Air Force Major Jeremy Fox earlier this year, which asserted that the Chinese plant would pose an intelligence threat.
“Some of the most sensitive elements of Grand Forks exist with the digital uplinks and downlinks inherent with unmanned air systems and their interaction with space based assets,” the memo warned.
Likewise, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said in a report that “the location of the land close to the base is particularly convenient for monitoring air traffic flows in and out of the base, among other security-related concerns.”
Construction for the project is set to begin in Spring 2023.
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) also spoke out against the project.
“I think we grossly underappreciate how effective they are at collecting information, collecting data, using it in nefarious ways, and so yeah, I’d just as soon not have the Chinese Communist Party doing business in my backyard,” he said.
FuFeng USA COO Eric Chutorash pushed back on the accusation that China would use to the facility to spy on the U.S. military.
“We’re under U.S. laws. I’m an American citizen. I grew up my whole life here and I’m not going to be doing any type of espionage activities or be associated with a company that does,” he said.
Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski said the $700 million plant is the “largest single investment in the city’s history,” adding that “the FBI didn’t say there was any immediate concerns.”
“We are extremely excited to make Grand Forks our North American home,” Chutorash said in a statement praising the project last year. “From the very beginning, we felt that Grand Forks was a great place to be located. It was evident early on that there was strong collaboration between the local and state government as well as with non-governmental partners and this became even more apparent as our evaluation process went on. They all really stepped up to make sure our project’s needs were met and the manufacturing site would be successful now and for the long-term.”