Military officers suspected of spying for China detained by Taiwan

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Taiwan detained three active-duty officers and a retired Air Force officer suspected of spying for China, the Central News Agency in Taipei reported, a case that hints at the extent of Beijing’s snooping on its much smaller neighbor.

The former officer left the military in 2013 and started doing business in China, where he was recruited to build an espionage ring, the semi-official media outlet said, without saying where it got the information.

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Prosecutors suspect he recruited six officers and was paid between NT$200,000 ($6,510) and NT$700,000 via a shell company, CNA reported late Wednesday. He and three officers serving in the Air Force and Navy were detained in the southern city of Kaohsiung, and three other active officers were freed on bail.

Taiwan has struggled to weed out espionage within its military by China, which has vastly more resources. The US — Taiwan’s biggest military backer — has long been worried about the self-ruled island’s ability to keep tech and other secrets out of Beijing’s hands.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said in November that China’s spying posed a “serious threat.” Those comments came as authorities launched an investigation into an infantry officer for allegedly taking NT$40,000 a month from China to gather intelligence and surrender if a war ever broke out, CNA earlier reported.

The spying problem affects the highest levels of Taiwan’s military.

Former Vice Defense Minister Chang Che-ping — once Taiwan’s third most important military official — was investigated in 2021 due to concern about contact with a Chinese spy ring.

He was cleared and became a witness in a case that led to the indictments on spy charges in June of a retired general and lieutenant colonel.

The US is stepping up its military support for Taiwan, which last year detected some 1,700 warplane incursions into a sensitive air-defense identification zone and more than 660 ships in nearby waters. US lawmakers in December agreed to a $1.7 trillion spending bill that permits up to $10 billion in arms sales to Taiwan.

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