A Norwegian citizen has been arrested on suspicion of attempting to spy for China

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A Norwegian citizen has been arrested on suspicion of attempting to spy for China, Norway’s domestic security agency said Tuesday, declining to give details about the case.

“We are in an initial phase. Therefore we are rather tight-lipped now. We are not going to give many details in the case,” said Thomas Blom, a prosecutor with the security agency, known by its Norwegian initials PST.

He spoke after the suspect, who was only identified as a man, was remanded in custody for four weeks, suspected of serious intelligence activities involving state secrets.

“It is a matter of national security,” Blom said. The man was arrested Monday morning at the Oslo international airport “after having been in China,” the prosecutor said. The arrest was undramatic, he said.

The suspect “is well-known,” Blom said, declining to give more details. He added: “We believe the information (he had) was destined to Chinese intelligence.” He didn’t not identify any Chinese agency.

If found guilty, the man faces up to 10 years in jail.

The suspect’s lawyer, Marius Dietrichson, told The Associated Press that his client denies being an agent for China and will plead not guilty.

In its annual threat assessment, the Norwegian domestic security service said that China “will be a significant intelligence threat in 2024.”

“This is due in particular to the deterioration in the relationship between China and the West, China’s desire for more control over supply chains, and positioning in the Arctic,” said the assessment, which was published in February. PST also said that the intelligence threat from China was ”significant.”

Relations between Oslo and Beijing have been tense in the past.

In 2017, then Norway’s prime minister, Erna Solberg, paid a visit to China as part of a restoration of full contacts between the two countries, after Beijing had frozen Oslo out over the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to an imprisoned Chinese dissident. seven years earlier. Although Norway’s government has no say over the Nobel panel’s choices, China suspended a bilateral trade deal and restricted imports of Norwegian salmon.

Norway has uncovered other suspected foreign intelligence activity in the country in recent years.

In 2022, Norway arrested an academic working as a lecturer at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsoe, who had entered Norway as a Brazilian citizen, and was suspected of spying for one of Russia’s intelligence agencies. Jose Assis Giammaria, who has confirmed his real name is Mikhail Mikushin, had arrived in Norway in 2021 and had researched the northern regions and hybrid threats. Norway’s Arctic border with Russia is 198 kilometers (123 miles) long.

A trial date for Mikushin’s case hasn’t been set.

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