China Tries to Infiltrate Pearl Harbor Military Base, Records Show

By the time police responded to a call shortly before 10 a.m. regarding a Chinese man and woman conducting surveillance near a security entrance of the historic Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, the two fled in what police identified as a 2021 silver Nissan Altima, with unidentified plates.

The two suspects had been “capturing digital media of the entry control point,” police said. Later that afternoon the pair–a man with a black crew cut and the woman with shoulder-length hair, a pink top, and a white skirt–appeared at another entry point. Police issued a “BOLO,” or “be-on-the-lookout,” notice for the two at all base entrances. 

This Sept. 29 incident represents just one of at least 14 instances since 2018 of Chinese nationals spotted attempting to either gain entry into the Pearl Harbor base or conduct surveillance, according to records obtained by The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.) 

The base—best known for being attacked by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941, and pulling a reluctant United States into World War II—was the only to provide records to the Oversight Project’s request for public records on attempted Chinese infiltration of military bases.

The Oversight Project, the watchdog arm of The Heritage Foundation, obtained the Consolidated Law Enforcement Operations Center records from the Navy through the Freedom of Information Act, and only asked for instances involving Chinese nationals.

Incidents include Chinese nationals sending drones over the base, suspects taking photos of the points of entry, and the initiation of a high-risk traffic stop. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service frequently investigated these incidents.

Some cases did not represent a threat, such as when a food delivery person attempted to take the wrong entry. 

Some cases proved more serious, however. On Oct. 29, at 3:49 p.m. at the Nimitz Gate entry into the base, two Chinese nationals—a man and woman—were stopped for “suspicious circumstances,” of “video recording and taking digital photographs.” 

The two were attempting to enter the base. When law enforcement asked where they live, “the subjects stated they are visiting Hawaii for two days and have no hotel room.” An NCIS special agent arrived at 4:31 p.m. But just before 5 p.m., authorities released both of the subjects. 

It’s not clear from the heavily redacted records if the Sept. 29 and Oct. 29 incidents involved the same people or were otherwise related. 

On Oct. 2, a Chinese national driving a 2012 Mazda without identification attempted to enter Nimitz Gate of the base. Police responded at 4:45 p.m. The man “did not speak or understand much English when he was asked for identification,” according to the report.

Officers interviewed him using Google Translate. He told officers he “was outside the Nimitz Gate to meet with a friend and to exchange items,” the record says. The friend confirmed the two knew one another from “the Chinese social media platform [WeChat] which serves as a medium for the business of Chinese food,” according to the police report.  

At 5:26 p.m. on March 14, dispatch got a call saying that a foreign national in a silver Toyota Highlander was taking photos of the base. The police record says an officer “made contact with the subject who stated they were taking pictures of the USS Missouri and Arizona Memorials.” 

The police record adds, “Patrols verified that there were no assets in the photos taken and deleted the photos” at 5:46 p.m. Police escorted the Chinese national to a bus stop, and wrapped the matter up by 11:20 a.m. 

On July 19, 2019, at 6:17 p.m., at the Ford Island Gate, another major entrance, a guard notified dispatch that “a black in color drone with a camera is hovering” near the gate and the officer spotted the person with control of the drone. The redacted police record says the drone landed in the parking lot of the building next to the USS Arizona Memorial. 

Police made contact with the drone operator, who according to the report “stated he came to visit the Arizona memorial, saw boats in the water” and wanted to film the boats “because he is pursuing a degree in photography.” The NCIS arrived at 7:37 p.m. and assumed control of the case, but later terminated the investigation. 

On Dec. 5, 2018, a Chinese national “gate runner” driving a 2016 black Nissan Altima was reported at the O’Malley Gate–another base entry point–at 11:47 a.m. Police initiated a pursuit of the suspect on Vandenberg Ave. At 11:49 a.m., police initiated a “a high risk traffic stop on Vandenberg Ave.” Police stopped the suspect, issued an armed forces traffic ticket, and escorted the redacted driver off the base. 

The House Oversight and Accountability Committee is investigating cases of Chinese nationals breaching U.S. military installations, and sent a letter on the issue to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and FBI Director Christopher Wray in October.

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