China Investigating Coca-Cola Over Illegal Intelligence Gathering: Report

03/14/2013 12:26 pm ET

China is reportedly investigating Coca-Cola for allegedly collecting information that could pose a national security threat to the communist country, according to the Financial Times.

The investigation began when an official from a Chinese mapping agency alleged that Coca-Cola employees were "illegally obtaining classified information" with handheld GPS devices in the rural province of Yunnan, FT notes, citing a report from a Chinese government website.

Because of the size and complexity of the investigation, China's Ministry of State Security is involved, reports the South China Morning Post.

For its part, Coca-Cola said in a statement to The New York Times that it uses "location-based customer logistics systems" to improve its deliveries in parts of China. The company said it is cooperating with the Chinese government's investigation.

Why is China so sensitive about foreign companies using mapping technology in its rural provinces? For one thing, that information could be used to carry out missile attacks on its military, Professor Guo Jiming, an expert in GPS technology, told the Morning Post.

The accusations of intelligence gathering come at a fraught moment in U.S.-China relations. On Monday, the Obama administration called out China for electronic theft of data from American companies. On Tuesday the Pentagon announced it would begin launching offensive operations to combat cyber attacks from foreign agents. Earlier, China denied it was involved in cyber attacks on U.S. companies and government agencies, the New York Times reported.

Coca-Cola did not respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post.

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