The Chinese and American governments have declined to comment, but insiders say two Chinese diplomats were kicked out of the US this fall after entering a sensitive military installation and claiming it was an innocent mistake. Sources tell the New York Times that the officials and their wives drove to a checkpoint at the Virginia base, which includes Special Operations forces. After being told they weren't allowed to enter but could go through the gate to turn around, the officials allegedly continued onto the base, evading military personnel pursuing them, until they were stopped by a fire truck blocking their path. The expulsions are believed to be the first of their kind since 1987.
The Times' sources say American officials were very skeptical of the Chinese diplomats' claim that they were on a sightseeing tour when they got lost and were unable to understand the guards' English instructions. Officials believe the Chinese officials, at least one of which is believed to have been an intelligence officer, were actually testing security at the base. Weeks after the September incident, the State Department announced that the activities of Chinese diplomats were being restricted and they would now have to provide notice before visiting facilities like research institutions. China has not kicked out any American diplomats in retaliation, which officials suspect is a sign that Beijing realizes that the attempt to enter the military base was a step too far. (The FBI has warned colleges about Chinese students.)