Chinese spying on Taiwan
A military prosecutor in Taiwan on Friday charged the former director of the Taiwanese military’s electronic communications and information department with conducting espionage for communist China and accepting bribes from his Chinese handlers.
Maj. Gen. Lo Hsien-che is the highest-ranking Taiwanese officer charged with spying for China since the 1960s, when several high-ranking officials, including a vice defense minister, were charged with similar crimes.
The prosecutor in the case stated that Gen. Lo was recruited by Chinese intelligence in Bangkok in 2004 when he was stationed there as Taiwan’s de facto military attache. Dubbed by the Taiwanese press a victim of a Chinese intelligence “honey trap,” or sexual entrapment, Gen. Lo, then a colonel and married, reportedly paid visits to Bangkok’s brothels and was furtively photographed “in compromising positions” by Chinese agents. He then was blackmailed into treason and became a willing collaborator, the prosecutor said, with a substantial financial reward for each of the top secrets he betrayed to Beijing, totaling about $1 million.
Upon finishing his tour in Thailand and returning to Taiwan in 2006, Gen. Lo, allegedly already a paid agent of China, was promoted to deputy director of the Taiwanese army’s international intelligence affairs, dealing directly with his counterparts in allied countries, including the United States. Gen. Lo’s career was soon boosted as he became the head of the supersensitive electronic communications and information department in the Republic of China army and was promoted to major general in 2008.
Damages caused by Gen. Lo’s alleged espionage acts could be catastrophic to Taiwan’s defense and possibly to U.S. security collaboration with Taiwan in the event of a mainland attack. Gen. Lo had intimate knowledge of and privileged access to Taiwan’s air, land and sea battle-management systems, electronic code systems and other crucial military secrets. It is also believed that the Taiwan-U.S. joint electronic warfare communications network known as the Po Sheng Project might have been compromised. This is the system Taipei purchased from Lockheed Martin as a primary strategic communications network with the U.S. Pacific Command in the event of war on Taiwan waged by China.
The entire Chinese military establishment in recent weeks appears ecstatic as Pakistan, enraged by the unannounced U.S. military raid into Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, suddenly and dramatically has escalated its friendship with Beijing in a clear signal of a new anti-American partnership.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s highly publicized, deliberately timed four-day visit to China, which began May 17, sent an unmistakable message: China and Pakistan are both upset over hegemonic and constant interference by America with these two countries’ internal affairs. It also sends the signal that the United States does not give them due respect regarding territorial integrity.
On Saturday, the Islamabad Post reported that during the visit, “Pakistan asked China that a message be conveyed to the U.S. government that Pakistan’s sovereignty should be respected. The Chinese government assured that they would help us to remove all the bottlenecks coming in the way of our prosperity.”
The same report quoted Pakistani Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, who accompanied Mr. Gilani to Beijing, as saying: “China is an all-weather friend and the closest ally of Pakistan, and it could be judged from the fact that in every sector Pakistan requested assistance during [the prime minister’s] recent visit to China, they immediately agreed with Pakistan.”
The Chinese message sent in the military aid was unmistakable. It includes transfer to Pakistan of Chinese-made 4,400-ton Type 054A missile frigates, called Jiangkai-II Class by NATO, “on credit basis.” Also included were 50 Chinese-Pakistani-made JF-17 Thunder fighters and the announced purchase of several dozen new Chinese J-10 fighters for the Pakistani Air Force. The reported deal also contains a possible lease by Pakistan’s navy of China’s nuclear-powered attack submarines.
The quid pro quo for China, as confirmed by Mr. Mukhtar, is a strategic bombshell: Pakistan will allow China to “take over” Pakistan’s strategic seaport of Gwadar after a management lease with Singapore expires.
Located in the extreme southwestern point of Pakistan just outside the strategic choke point of the Strait of Hormuz, Gwadar had been among the most coveted spots in Beijing’s global strategic calculations.
China provided 80 percent of the financing and much of the labor force used for construction of the deep warm-water seaport, which began in 2002 and was finished in 2007.
China’s military operates an electronic radar listening post in Gwadar that monitors U.S. naval traffic, which frequently transits the region on the way to the Persian Gulf. In 2003, China and Pakistan struck a deal to build a railway connecting Gwadar and China’s Xinjiang province. About 60 percent of China’s energy imports pass through sea lanes near Gwadar. If and when a Chinese takeover of Gwadar becomes a reality, much of China’s strategic reliance on waters east of Pakistan, a prominent U.S. area of influence, will be greatly reduced.
Some observers have said Gwadar is part of China’s larger strategic goal called the “String of Pearls,” which calls for establishing bases and alliances along sea routes from the oil-rich Middle East to China’s coasts. One prominent Chinese military blogger stated in an Internet post after the announcement that the true meaning of the Chinese military’s projected takeover of Gwadar was that “the landmark that the Chinese navy has been agonizingly waiting for 60 years to reach” was finally within sight.
• Miles Yu’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.