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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The United States this fall quietly expelled two Chinese Embassy officials suspected of spying after they breached a military base near Norfolk, Virginia, that houses U.S. Special Operations forces, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The episode, which has not been publicly acknowledged by either Washington or Beijing, is believed to be the first instance of Chinese diplomats being expelled on suspicions of espionage in more than 30 years, per the Times. It has also heightened concerns in the Trump administration that China is expanding its spying operations in the U.S.

Details: In September, the Times reports that two Chinese Embassy officials and their wives drove up to an entrance checkpoint on the Virginian base. A guard realized the officials did not have permission to enter and asked the group to drive through the gate, turn around and exit.

  • The Chinese officials instead continued onto the base and evaded military personnel pursuing them. Fire trucks finally blocked the group, and the officials were kicked off the base.
  • The Chinese officials said they misunderstood the guard’s English instructions and simply got lost — but U.S. officials believe the group was testing the base's security.

In response to the base intrusion and other incidences of suspected spying, the State Department in October announced new restrictions on Chinese diplomats, requiring them to provide notice before meeting with American officials or visiting educational and research institutions.

  • China accused the U.S. of violating the Vienna Convention, which defines diplomatic relations between independent countries, but has not retaliated by expelling any American officials.
  • The Times notes that this could be an acknowledgment by Chinese officials that the diplomats overstepped their limits by attempting to gain access to the sensitive base.

Go deeper: How China became a global power of espionage

Go deeper

Neera Tanden withdraws nomination for Office of Management and Budget director

Neera Tanden testifying before the Senate Budget Committee in Washington, D.C., in February 2021. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Neera Tanden withdrew her name from nomination to lead the Office of Management and Budget after several senators voiced opposition and concern about her qualifications and past combative tweets, President Biden announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: Tanden’s decision to pull her nomination marks Biden's first setback in filling out his Cabinet with a thin Democratic majority in the Senate.

What's ahead for the newest female CEOs

Jane Fraser (L) and Rosalind Brewer. Photos: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images; Rodrigo Capote/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The number of women at the helm of America’s biggest companies pales in comparison to men, but is newly growing — and their tasks are huge.

What's going on: Jane Fraser took over at Citigroup this week, the first woman to ever lead a major U.S. bank. Rosalind Brewer will take the reins at Walgreens in the coming weeks (March 15) — a company that's been run by white men for more than a century.

3 hours ago - Health

Biden says U.S. will have enough vaccines for 300 million adults by end of May

President Biden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden on Tuesday said that ramped-up coronavirus vaccine production will provide enough doses for 300 million Americans by the end May.

Why it matters: That's two months sooner than Biden's previous promise of enough vaccines for all American adults by the end of July.

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