Biden spokesperson calls Chinese land purchases near military bases a ‘homeownership problem’
White House spokesman John Kirby dismissed questions about purchases of foreign land near US military bases and potentially linked to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), calling it an “ownership issue”.
Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, came to the question during a Sept. 13 briefing about Chinese entities “buying U.S. real estate,” including “farms around military installations,” given that some could be linked to the regime in power in the country.
“Is this on the administration’s radar?” Al Jazeera reporter Kimberly Halkett asked during the conference. “And what is being done, perhaps, to study this or to prevent Americans from ensuring that homes remain affordable and so on?”
The reporter was referring to an investment in a corn mill by a Chinese company in the town of Grand Forks, North Dakota, located less than 15 miles from Grand Forks Air Force Base which houses drones, satellites and sensitive surveillance technologies. The top executive of his parent company had also been a member of the CPC legislature in Shandong Province, China.
Kirby initially tried to dwell on the surface of the issue, saying that “the issue of homeownership is a bit irrelevant.” [his] swim lane.
After being pressed further about the land grab, the former Pentagon spokesman shifted the focus to Biden’s foreign trade policy, saying “the president has only been clear about our concerns concerning unfair trade practices and Chinese economic practices”.
Halkett chimed in by reiterating the question with the deal, saying, “It’s not about trade. It’s about national security and buying land around military installations.
“I’m probably not the right person to ask about home ownership here in the United States,” the spokesperson said.
“It’s not about home ownership,” Halkett replied again.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre chimed in and said the White House could “go back to [the reporter] after.”
National Security Risks
The exchange came as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an interagency group overseen by the Treasury Department that reviews foreign investments for national security risks, conducts a review to determine if the transaction is one of the “covered transactions”. within the jurisdiction of the committee.
The City of Grand Forks announced the deal in November 2021 and approved the development agreement in July. Fufeng USA, a subsidiary of China’s Fufeng Group, plans to build a corn milling plant on the 370-acre farmland near Grand Forks Air Force Base.
While senators representing the state have decried national security concerns associated with the company, the sale of North Dakota represented only a small portion of China’s total $6.1 billion investment in US real estate last year, the most of any foreign buyer, according to the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
The senses. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) unveiled legislation in April 2021 aimed at preventing Russia, China, Iran and North Korea from buying land within 100 miles from a US military installation, or 50 miles from military areas.
“The Chinese Communist Party and our other adversaries should not be able to buy land near our military bases,” said Rubio, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, during the presentation of the draft law. law. “If the United States is serious about fighting China and other foreign adversaries, our government must prevent them from acquiring uncontrolled American assets.”
Earlier this month, Mayor Brandon Bochenski said in a statement that the City of Grand Forks “intends to suspend construction work on specific elements in Fufeng USA” until review in CFIUS course is completed.
Terri Wu contributed to this report.