The Justice Department unsealed charges Wednesday against a suspected Chinese spy for allegedly conducting economic espionage and trying to steal trade secrets from U.S. aerospace companies.
The alleged Chinese intelligence officer, Yanjun Xu, was extradited to the United States on Tuesday from Belgium, where he was arrested in April at Washington’s request.
His extradition marks what appears to be the first time that a Chinese spy has been brought to the U.S. to face prosecution, according to U.S. officials.
The U.S. is trying combat what American officials describe as a relentless effort by the Chinese government to plunder American industry of its innovative ideas and technologies.
Senior U.S. national security officials, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, have repeatedly warned that China is aggressively trying to acquire — largely illegally — new and emerging technologies in everything from agriculture to artificial intelligence to try to surpass the United States as the world’s preeminent power.
Last week, Vice President Pence accused the Chinese of trying to orchestrate “the wholesale theft of American technology.”
Top law enforcement officials picked up that theme on Wednesday.
“This case is not an isolated incident,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said of Xu’s alleged actions. “It is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense. We cannot tolerate a nation’s stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower.”
Xu made his initial appearance in federal court in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Wednesday. According to court papers, he is a deputy division director for the Ministry of State Security, which is China’s intelligence and security agency, in Jiangsu Province.