Air Force Says Proposed Chinese-Owned Mill in North Dakota Is ‘Significant Threat’

After more than a year of debate about whether a Chinese company’s plan to build a corn mill in North Dakota was an economic boon or a geopolitical risk, an assistant secretary of the Air Force has weighed in with a warning that the “project presents a significant threat to national security.”

The letter from Assistant Secretary Andrew P. Hunter, released publicly on Tuesday by North Dakota’s senators, noted the proximity of Grand Forks Air Force Base to the proposed mill and said the project raised “near- and long-term risks of significant impacts to our operations in the area.”

The debate over Fufeng USA’s plan to build a giant milling facility on the edge of Grand Forks, less than 15 miles from the Air Force base, divided the Republican power structure in North Dakota and showed just how swiftly the economic relationship between the United States and China had changed.

Though the Air Force letter did not name specific threats, residents had voiced numerous concerns. Some in town said it was unwise to deepen economic ties with China, while others speculated that the mill could be used for spying on the Air Force, which the company denied.