U.S. officials have been reluctant to provide details, but Chinese nationals posing as tourists have been attempting to access military bases in Alaska in recent weeks.
In one case, several soldiers told USA Today a vehicle with Chinese citizens blew past a security checkpoint at Fort Wainwright near Fairbanks. The vehicle was eventually stopped, and a drone was found inside. The occupants claimed they were tourists who had gotten lost.
"I used to be the operations officer for Fort Wainwright," says Bob Maginnis. "Anybody can drive through if they're willing to run down a guard, so the fact that Chinese – quote –'tourists' were there is interesting."
Since there is nothing to do in Fairbanks but "look at critters that are walking back and forth across the road," he cannot imagine why legitimate Chinese tourists would want to go there.
"Finding a group of Chinese that are infiltrating an Army base or an Air Force base that far north of Anchorage would be very, very curious and would raise all sorts of suspicions," the defense analyst adds.
He does not think the communist government will be deterred by the fact that this particular group was caught.
"I'm not the least surprised that the Chinese haven't tried overtly or covertly to infiltrate any of these facilities, because a lot of them do have very sensitive places," Maginnis tells AFN. "The Chinese are what the Chinese are: They rob, cheat, and steal anything they can."
Many of the encounters have been chalked up to innocent mistakes by foreign visitors intent on viewing the northern lights and other attractions in Alaska, officials say. But according to multiple soldiers familiar with the incidents but not authorized to speak publicly about them, other attempts to enter U.S. military bases seem to be probes to learn about U.S. military capabilities in Alaska.