An alleged spy for the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) was arrested in Belgium and extradited to the US on accusations he tried to steal trade secrets from US aviation and aerospace companies, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.
The extradition of Yanjun Xu, a director at the Chinese Ministry of State Security, is the first time a Chinese intelligence officer has been brought to the US to face trail, according to The New York Times.
"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 Assistant Attorney General John Demers. "This case is not an isolated incident. It is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense."
Yanjun is accused of committing such acts of espionage against leading American aviation companies since 2013 until his arrest in April. Investigators said one of his tactics involved prying information from American experts in the aviation and aerospace industries by asking them to give lectures at universities in China and paying for their travel expenses.
Yanjun's extradition represents a major victory for the Trump administration, which has accused China of intellectual property theft as part of its attempt to rein in a regime that has become increasingly aggressive under President Xi Jinping.
If convicted on conspiracy charges, Yanjun could face a maximum of 15 years in prison. A conviction on the charge of attempting to steal trade secrets carries a 10-year maximum prison sentence.
"The Trump administration has been saying that the roots of its trade war with China is to protect massive amount of intellectual property," Abigail Grace, an expert on US-China relations, told Business Insider.
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