Tester Statement on Congressional Probe into Chinese Espionage at U.S. Ports

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today issued the following statement after a congressional probe raised concerns about potential espionage efforts through Chinese-built cargo cranes deployed at ports throughout the United States:

My top priority will always be defending Montana and our national security, full stop. Any effort by our foreign adversaries like China to spy on Montanans and the American people – whether it be through a balloon, our ports of entry, or purchasing farmland near sensitive military sites like Malmstrom Air Force Base – is unacceptable and must be shut down immediately. I have serious concerns about reported Chinese espionage efforts at American ports and will hold the Biden Administration accountable in order to get Montanans the answers they deserve and to keep our country safe.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that this probe found that this specific Chinese espionage has potentially been occurring at U.S. ports as far back as 2017. The WSJ notes that: “The modems, according to the letter, were believed to have been installed around June 2017, around the time of the cranes’ manufacturing and assembly, and removed in October of last year.”

As Chair of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, Tester continues to lead oversight efforts around the Chinese spy balloon that flew over Montana last year, including boosting the military’s budget to ensure the Pentagon has the tools it needs to better prevent these evolving threats. Tester brought Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and top Air Force leadership to Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Montana Air National Guard’s 120th Airlift Wing to meet directly with servicemembers and receive updates on Malmstrom’s response to the Chinese spy balloon.

Tester successfully secured the inclusion of his bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual must-pass defense bill, to assess commercially available technology that can and is being used in foreign espionage programs by countries including China.

Tester has also led the charge to protect American food security and national security by cracking down on ownership of U.S. farmland and agribusinesses by China and other foreign adversaries. Tester has introduced two bipartisan bills — the Protecting America’s Agricultural Land from Foreign Harm Act and the Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security (PASS) Act — to prohibit America’s foreign adversaries including China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia from purchasing or leasing U.S. farmland. Tester secured his bipartisan PASS Act as an amendment to the FY24 Senate-passed version of the annual national defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Tester’s amendment was ultimately stripped out of the final NDAA by Speaker Johnson and House Republicans.