03:20 GMT22 October 2020
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    The most urgent intelligence threat to the United States comes from China, according to David Major, former FBI agent and current director of a security think tank.

    At a congressional US-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing last week, experts claimed that Chinese spying currently poses the most significant threat to US security.

    According to data collected by counter-intelligence think tank CI Centre, 160 Chinese espionage agents were uncovered in America between 1985-2016.

    Many of those apprehended were involved in the theft of trade secrets and technology useful to the Chinese military, including Wenxia Man, who was convicted last week of attempting to illegally acquire and export to China fighter-jet engines and an unmanned aerial vehicle.

    An undercover agent discovered that Man's buyer in China was a technology spy working for that country's military, and intended to back-engineer and replicate foreign defense items purchased abroad.

    "The PRC today is the most aggressive intelligence threat facing the United States," Major said, adding that Beijing's combined use of cyberattacks and sophisticated spying aggravates the problem.

    "FBI investigations and arrests for industrial espionage and violations of export control laws are at an all-time high, predominately linked to the Chinese government," said Michele Van Cleave, former US National Counterintelligence Executive, a senior government counterspy post.

    Peter Mattis, a China affairs analyst at the Jamestown Foundation, warned of increased recruitment of young Americans who travel to China, suggesting that recruited US students may be directed to work with the US government or a high-tech company and then supply sensitive information to Beijing.

    Analysts believe that China's recent strategic nuclear forces buildup is, to a large extent, due to the theft of US nuclear secrets, both through the recruitment of agents and the use of online espionage.

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    Tags:
    spies, intelligence, United States, China
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