(KXNET) — The proposed Chinese corn milling plant near the Grand Forks Air Force base has now become an issue far beyond the Grand Forks area.
It’s under scrutiny in Washington D.C. from military and national security officials to our own United States Senators
North Dakota and its involvement with China are back in the spotlight.
Last week we reported that Senators Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven joined Senator Marco Rubio, the leading Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, in calling the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, or CFIUS, to review Chinese company Fufeng Group’s purchase of 370 acres of farmland 12 miles from Grand Forks Air Force Base.
We were able to catch Senator Hoeven by phone between flights the day after he submitted the letter to CFIUS Chair Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
“Making sure the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, takes a good hard look to make sure they ask any hard questions as far as national security implications for the plant specifically relative to the Grand Forks Air Force Base. As you will see the city has already advocated do that,” explained Hoeven.
In the letter, the senators wrote: “that Fufeng operations could provide cover for the PRC (People’s Republic of China) surveillance or interference with the missions located at that installation, given Fufeng Group’s reported ties to the Chinese Communist Party.”
Senator Kevin Cramer has long been opposed to the project.
One question Cramer poses: There are plenty of other locations besides Grand Forks with more corn?
“One thing Grand Forks County and the area are not, they are not in the heart of corn country. They’re certainly on the fringe of it, but not in the heart of it, so I have always been a little bit suspicious of the value of the location to corn milling and also concerned about the value of the location to potential spying.”
Cramer tells us that Grand Forks Air Force Base houses sensitive drone technology connected to space and satellite operations, and the base is in the process right now of launching new, more sophisticated, Intelligence, Satelite, Reconnaissance systems.
“There’s going to be a lot of data uplinks and downlinks that we certainly wouldn’t want to make easy for our foreign adversaries like China to access,” said Cramer.
We spoke to Brigadier General Lawrence A. Mitchell of the U.S. Air Force.
After retiring from the Air Force, General Mitchell worked in the National Security Administration as the Director for CEMO (Community Electronics Management Office).
General Mitchell warns against letting Fufeng so close.
“They’re the dragon’s eyes and ears, and all they’re after is you know to find out everything that they can about our military, our military capabilities, our technology, the political ramifications of each,” explained General Mitchell.
A recent report reveals a memo from Major Jeremy Fox that circulated within the base. Fox wrote: “Some of the most sensitive elements of Grand Forks exist with the digital uplinks and downlinks inherent with unmanned air systems and their interaction with space-based assets,” he wrote. And any such data collection “would present a costly national security risk causing grave damage to United States’ strategic advantages.”
“There is more activity right now than there has ever been, so to say that they are just being friends. I would not characterize it as that way at all. I would say they are there to do something against us. Else why would they pick that spot. There are a lot of other spots they can go where there is no one else around,” explained General Lawrence.
And, after years of our State Investment Board investing millions of dollars of our Legacy Fund into Chinese companies, many of which have been involved with Chinese surveillance and espionage, one could wonder if Chinese companies find North Dakota friendly for doing business.
We have spent considerable time trying to contact Fufeng Group USA.
Fufeng does not have a U.S. website and the only website we could find was the Chinese one and our browsers would not allow us to open the website.
We have also reached out to Grand Forks City Hall and the Mayor’s Office. We have not heard back yet.