Pentagon: Proposed Chinese plant near N. Dakota base ‘threat to national security’

The Defense Department says a proposed Chinese corn milling plant in North Dakota poses a potential danger to national security because it would be located near an Air Force base that oversees reconnaissance operations.

On Tuesday, Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer, both North Dakota Republicans, released a letter from the Air Force that raises concern about the Fufeng Group’s proposal to build the plant about 12 miles from Grand Forks Air Force Base.

The base is the “center of military activities related to both air and space operations,” Andrew P. Hunter, assistant Air Force secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, told the senators in a letter dated Jan. 27.

The host unit at Grand Forks Air Force Base is the 319th Reconnaissance Wing. It operates the Northrup Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft, which delivers surveillance and reconnaissance to combatant commands.

“The [Air Force’s] view is unambiguous: the proposed [Fufeng Group] project presents a significant threat to national security with both near-and-long-term risks of significant impacts to our operations in the area,” Mr. Hunter wrote.

The Fufeng Group is a chemical manufacturing company based in Jinan, China. It is one of the world’s largest producers of monosodium glutamate, a flavor enhancer. U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern over the company’s alleged connections to the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party.

But the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) concluded that it didn’t have jurisdiction over the Fufeng Group’s proposal to build a processing plant near the base.

The North Dakota senators said local leaders have asked for clarity from the federal government over the Fufeng project. Their position is that it should be discontinued.

“Instead, we should work together to find an American company to develop the agriculture project,” Mr. Cramer and Mr. Hoeven said in a statement.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said the Chinese Communist Party shouldn’t be allowed to purchase land near U.S military bases, calling such a move “dangerous and dumb.”

“Congresses mandated that CFIUS protect America’s national security and that should be its first priority, not making it easier for Chinese businesses with ties to Beijing to operate in the United States,” Mr. Rubio said in a statement.

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