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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

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to 4 years in prison

An anti-coup protest in Yangon, Myanmar.Photo: Hkun Lat/Getty Images

A Myanmar court sentenced the country's ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on Monday to four years in prison on charges of "inciting public unrest" and breaking COVID-19 protocols, per the New York Times.

Why it matters: It's the first of several verdicts that could result in the 76-year-old Nobel laureate being imprisoned for the rest of her life. The 11 charges she faces have been widely criticised as politically motivated.

5 hours ago - World

Pope Francis denounces European governments' migrant response

Pope Francis adresses refugees at the Reception and Identification Centre (RIC) in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos on Sunday. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis criticized European countries' response to migrants and asylum seekers during his visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos Sunday.

Why it matters: The pope said "migration is a humanitarian crisis that concerns everyone," but little had changed in the global response to displaced peoples since his first visit to Lesbos five years ago, per a transcript of his remarks. "Human lives, real people, are at stake. ... let us stop this shipwreck of civilization!"

Chris Cuomo accuser: On-air "hypocrisy" spurred report

Journalist Chris Cuomo. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

A woman who accused fired CNN journalist Chris Cuomo of sexual misconduct said Sunday she decided to come forward after learning of his comments about women who made similar accusations about his brother. He denies her allegations.

Why it matters: Her attorney Debra Katz said in a statement that she heard "the hypocrisy" of his on-air words about his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and was "disgusted by his efforts to try to discredit these women," so "retained counsel to report his serious sexual misconduct against her to CNN."

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