The U.S. secretly expelled two Chinese diplomats in September after entering a Virginia military base that houses the headquarters of SEAL Team 6, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
The diplomats, along with their wives, were detained after the four drove through the outer perimeter of the Dam Neck Annex of Naval Air Station Oceana, south of Virginia Beach. They ignored orders from guards to turn back and were only stopped by fire trucks that were driven to block their path, according to the Times. One of the men is allegedly an intelligence operative with diplomatic cover.
The U.S. has refused to comment on the incident or even confirm or deny that it took place. China, however, acknowledged on Monday that the two diplomats were expelled.
“The US accusation on our officials is completely inconsistent with the truth,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, who was formerly stationed at the country’s embassy in Washington. “We urge the U.S. to correct its mistake, withdraw this decision and protect Chinese diplomats’ legitimate rights and interests according to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.”
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Uriah Orland told the Times he had no further information about the incident. “We take the security of all our installations very seriously,” Orland said.
The news comes at a time of escalated tensions between the U.S. and China. The two countries are currently locked in a trade war, and President Trump is currently pushing for a trade agreement that will see both sides reduce tariffs on imports.
There have been several other recent U.S.-China espionage incidents, including the sentencing of a former CIA officer who was convicted of spying for China.