Asia Minute: The Latest China Issue: Drones

Nov 1, 2019

The U.S. and China are still working on details to sign an interim trade agreement, but many disputes remain between the two countries. One of the latest involves drones.

One of the largest drone programs in the United States government belongs to the Interior Department. That makes some sense when you think about it — the Interior Department oversees all that national park land and other federal land, among its various responsibilities.

But the Secretary of the Interior has now ordered the department to stop using all drones made in China or those with Chinese-made parts. The only exception is for emergencies like fighting wildfires.

The Financial Times reports that every single one of the department’s 810 drones was either made in China or includes parts that were made in China.

The fear is that the drones could send data to the Chinese government.

Back in July, the Interior Department concluded a 15-month review of the drone program and said it had strategies in place to insure drone information remained secure. But now, the department will be conducting a separate internal investigation.

Last month, a bill was introduced in the Senate that would force all federal departments to stop using Chinese-made drones.

Not surprisingly, the latest news from the Interior Department was met with criticism from Beijing — where a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the U.S. government should “stop abusing the concept of national security.”