General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, a US-based leading drone manufacturer, recently stated that it “firmly opposes” a new Chinese agricultural project near Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.
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The business, which built the Predator drone and has a substantial presence near Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, called the US government to stop the Fufeng Group’s plans to build a large-scale corn milling plant on 370 acres in Grand Forks.
The company expresses grave concern about the significant threats to US national security.
The company said that the confidentiality of new weapons would be jeopardized if General Atomics used the local airspace to “conduct significant test and evaluation efforts related to unmanned aircraft, radar systems, and other advanced military technologies.”
“Chinese business efforts are inextricably linked with Chinese government efforts,” said General Atomics spokesman C Mark Brinkley. “We can’t ignore the opportunity for sophisticated military espionage to co-locate itself within a Chinese business of such scale and scope,” he said.
He added that American policymakers should be highly concerned, given the proximity to crucial national airspace and sensitive military operations at and around Grand Forks Air Force Base.
General Atomics stated that it has been operating in the Grand Forks area for over a decade and uses a 20-acre location for worldwide training for the US and allied military troops employing its technology.
“We understand the significant economic opportunities this proposed agricultural project represents for the people of Grand Forks and the state of North Dakota,” Brinkley said. “But no measure of assurances from the company can ever offset the tremendous risk being introduced.”
Concerns Regarding The Chinese Project
For months, the Chinese project has been a subject of debate. The $700 million project by Fufeng Group is expected to be built near a US Air Force facility, fueling speculation of potential espionage.
Fufeng manufactures items for the oil and gas, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, health and wellness sectors, and other industries. It is a major xanthan gum manufacturer.
Recently, it was reported that the Chinese company’s project is currently being examined by federal authorities, who argue that they need more information to determine whether it could be detrimental to national security. The reports stated that it might take up to three months to complete the review.
The Committee on Foreign Investment sent a letter to Fufeng stating that the data it provided was “insufficient.” The company said it had been “open and cooperative” with US government representatives and would abide by their request for additional information.
Previously, a senior Air Force commander had issued a memo in April cautioning that the presence of the Fufeng Group in Grand Forks constituted a threat to national security.
Major Jeremy Fox asserts that the Chinese project fits into a pattern of covert espionage activities by China that target Department of Defense locations by encroaching on business and economic development programs.
He suggested that because the Fufeng project is located in such a small geographic area, passive receiving devices might be used to eavesdrop on secret communications made and received by drones and spacecraft traveling to and from the facility.
Fox said that the digital uplinks and downlinks that come with unmanned air systems and their interaction with space-based assets are some of the most sensitive aspects of Grand Forks.
Furthermore, data collection would pose a costly national security risk, seriously undermining American strategic advantages. Meanwhile, the US Air Force has not officially announced its position on the Chinese project in North Dakota.
However, Fox is not the only one concerned about the Chinese project in Grand Forks. The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission mentioned Fox’s intelligence worries in a report issued on May 26. It noted that, among other security-related concerns, the land’s location to the base enables it to observe aviation traffic flows into and out of it.
The report does not accuse Fufeng of wrongdoing and does not seem to reveal any new, previously unknown issues regarding the corporation. Nonetheless, it represents one of the most noteworthy concerns about the project since it was announced last year.
Meanwhile, many people stress how beneficial the Fufeng Group is for the economy of North Dakota. Governor Doug Burgum said the project would benefit North Dakota regarding jobs, facilities, economic activity, and tax money.