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US Charges Chinese Spy Over Aviation Secrets

US Charges Chinese Spy Over Aviation Secrets

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday that Yanjun Xu had been arrested on April 1 in Belgium, which then extradited him to the US on Tuesday.

They remained in contact, and in February 2018, Xu persuaded the GE Aviation employee to send him a company presentation relating to aviation that included proprietary information, USA authorities said.

"This unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposes the Chinese government's direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States", Assistant Director Bill Priestap of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division said.

The arrest comes as Donald Trump has escalated his bellicose language against China amid a burgeoning trade war and deteriorating relations.

Justice Department officials said the case is the latest example of China trying to advance its economy at the expense of American firms and information.

"This indictment alleges that a Chinese intelligence officer sought to steal trade secrets and other sensitive information from an American company that leads the way in aerospace", said John Demers, the assistant USA attorney general for national security. "But we can not tolerate a nation stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower".

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. This case shows that federal law enforcement authorities cannot only detect and disrupt such espionage, but can also catch its perpetrators.

On September 26 the USA charged electrical engineer Ji Chaoqun with knowingly acting as an agent of China, due to his contacts with an unnamed "high-level intelligence officer" from the Jiangsu State Security Department. 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 USA submarines by 2020. Xu is a deputy division director with the organisation's Jiangsu provincial division.

"If not the first, this is an exceptionally rare achievement - that you're able to catch an espionage operative and have them extradited to the United States", said John Carlin, a former assistant attorney general for national security.

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U.S. has significantly ramped up its rhetoric against China amid a trade war.

The indictment states that from 2013 and up to his arrest, Xu would attract aviation companies' experts to China under the pretext of giving a lecture at a university.

He made contact with experts and recruited them to travel to China, often for the initial goal of delivering a university presentation and paying their costs and a stipend, the Justice Department said.

Xu often exchanged information with individuals at Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronomics [NUAA], one of the top engineering schools in China and which has significant influence over China's aerospace industry, according to court documents.

Glassman said he had no plans to charge the GE Aviation employee, who no longer works at the company.

GE Aviation exhibited equipment at the Zhuhai Airshow in 2010. The newspaper, citing an Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit, said Xu tried to convince one of the experts to share corporate documents that he had brought with him as part of his planned university lecture.

In February, Xu began discussing with the engineer the possibility of meeting in Europe during one of the engineer's business trips, the indictment said. The employee, under Xu's directions, downloaded company materials and traveled to Belgium in April to pass that data to Xu, the indictment alleges.

The move is in line with a new law passed in August - the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernisation Act of 2018 (or FIRRMA) - in response to warnings from intelligence officials that advanced United States technology transferred to Chinese companies through acquisitions and other means may have undercut the American military's advantages over China.