U.S. says China spy charged with trying to steal aviation secrets

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The arrest of Xu and his extradition represent the first time the US has been able to bring a Chinese intelligence officer to America to be prosecuted for economic espionage, said John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security.

Xu Yanjun targeted US and European aerospace companies on behalf of China's Ministry of State Security, according to an indictment charging him with economic espionage and other crimes.

Beginning in at least December 2013, Xu targeted certain companies identified as leaders in the aviation field both inside and outside the United States, including GE Aviation, and recruited experts from those companies to travel to China, according to a complaint.

"This indictment alleges that a Chinese intelligence officer sought to steal trade secrets and other sensitive information from an American company that leads the way in aerospace", said John Demers, the assistant United States attorney general for national security.

Benjamin Glassman, U.S. attorney for Ohio's southern district, said no military information was targeted, but any attempt by other countries to "grow companies at America's expense" is considered a threat to national security.

We can not tolerate a nation stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower. "We will not tolerate a nation that reaps what it does not sow".

They remained in contact, and in February 2018, Xu persuaded the GE Aviation employee to send him a company presentation relating to aviation that included proprietary information, USA authorities said.

"This indictment alleges that a Chinese intelligence officer sought to steal trade secrets and other sensitive information from an American company that leads the way in aerospace", Assistant Attorney General Demers said in the release. China paid for the travel and also gave the experts a fee.

He was detained in Belgium on 1 April at the request of the US. Last week Vice President Pence accused Chinese security agencies of "mastermind [ing] the wholesale theft of American technology".

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Xu, a senior officer with China's Ministry of State Security (MSS), appeared in federal court in Cincinnati on Wednesday, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

The emails discussed China's attempts to obtain information on composite fan rotors for aircraft, and Xu urged one USA employee of a company to provide information on a computer flash drive.

The MSS is a civilian spy agency responsible for counterintelligence, foreign intelligence and domestic political security.

He made contact with experts and recruited them to travel to China, often for the initial objective of delivering a university presentation and paying their costs and a stipend, the Justice Department said.

In February, according to court papers, Zu recruited a GE Aviation employee, who sent him a presentation that contained the company's proprietary information.

Wray spoke in a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing, where he answered lawmakers' questions about national security threats including allegations by Pence and President Donald Trump that China is attempting to influence U.S. voters in upcoming midterm elections.

A spokesperson for GE Aviation told The Associated Press that the company has been cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for months and that the impact to the company is "minimal thanks to early detection, our advanced digital systems and internal processes, and our partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation". Xu's co-conspirators told the employee that they wished the presentation to focus on highly technical information such as how a material would be applied for use in aeroengines.

Xu's case is linked to the arrest last month of Ji Chaoqun, 27, a Chinese citizen living in Chicago, according to individuals familiar with the matter. All were naturalised USA citizens born either in mainland China or the self-governed island of Taiwan.

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