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 30 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 33,642,602 — Total deaths: 1,007,769 — Total recoveries: 23,387,825Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 7,191,061 — Total deaths: 205,998 — Total recoveries: 2,813,305 — Total tests: 103,155,189Map.
  3. Health: Americans won't take Trump's word on the vaccine, Axios-Ipsos poll finds.
  4. Politics: 7 former FDA commissioners say Trump is undermining agency's credibility
  5. States: NYC's coronavirus positivity rate spikes to highest since June.
  6. Sports: Tennessee Titans close facility amid NFL's first coronavirus outbreak.
  7. World: U.K. beats previous record for new coronavirus cases.
  8. Work: United States of burnout — Asian American unemployment spikes amid pandemic

In photos: Deadly wildfires devastate California's wine country

The Shady Fire ravages a home as it approaches Santa Rosa in Napa County, California, on Sept. 28. The blaze is part of the massive Glass Fire Complex, which has razed 46,600 acres at 2% containment. Photo: Samuel Corum/Agence France-Presse/AFP via Getty Images

Some 18,700 firefighters are battling 27 major blazes across California, including in the heart of the wine country, where one mega-blaze claimed the lives of three people and forced thousands of others to evacuate this week.

The big picture: 8,155 wildfires have burned across a record 3.86 million acres, killing 26 people and razing almost 7,900 structures in California this year, per Cal Fire. Just like the deadly blazes of 2017, the wine country has become a wildfires epicenter. Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma, and Shasta counties.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The first Trump v. Biden presidential debate was a hot mess

Photos: Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

This debate was like the country: Everybody’s talking. Nobody’s listening. Nothing is learned. It’s a mess.

  • We were told President Trump would be savage. Turned out, that was a gross understatement. Even the moderator, Fox News' Chris Wallace, got bulldozed.

Why it matters: Honestly, who the hell knows?

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