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“These are several of our key capabilities which have been helped by the U.S.,” he said. “They are the main obstacles to seizing Taiwan by force.”

Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Yang agreed, calling Patriot and Po Sheng “a critical Taiwanese asset.” But he told The AP, “The systems have not been compromised.”

Beijing’s biggest Po Sheng catch to date was almost certainly Maj. Gen. Lo, described by local media at the time of his arrest 14 months ago as the most effective Chinese spy on Taiwan since the 1960s, when a deputy defense minister was picked up in a sweep of communist agents.

Lo headed the army command’s communications and information office, and according to Taiwan's defense ministry, he was recruited by the Chinese as a spy in 2004 when he was a military attache based overseas.

Taiwanese news reports say that Lo was arrested on the heels of U.S. surveillance, which determined that he had been recruited by a sultry female spy while serving in Bangkok. The reports said Lo had been blackmailed into providing Beijing with secrets involving electronic warfare and overall strategic planning.

The Defense Ministry says Lo’s exposure to Po Sheng was limited. Last July he was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted on espionage charges.

Like Lo, Capt. Chiang had access to sensitive military secrets. Taiwanese news reports said he passed information about an early warning radar system through a Taiwanese businessman working in China.

Citing unidentified military sources, Taiwan’s Apple Daily newspaper described the system as a joint Taiwan-U.S. air defense called “yellow net” that can track Chinese missiles launched at the island.

The defense ministry has acknowledged that Chiang had worked at a ground command center in northern Taiwan, without elaborating on what he did there.

The Apple Daily said officials concluded that a major motive for his alleged spying had been a desire to get money to impress his girlfriend with frequent visits to expensive nightclubs.

Two former U.S. government officials familiar with American defense sales to Taiwan said that despite some Taiwanese media reports, China’s recent espionage activity on the island does not threaten the integrity of U.S. defense technology. They said Washington withholds sensitive information like sofnd equips highly classified electronic components with anti-tamper devices.

Still, more than just U.S. technology is at stake when Chinese spies target Taiwanese defense networks, one of the former officials said.

“How Po Sheng is used, the network layouts, what systems are integrated into the network and what are not, all this would be very useful for the Chinese to know,” he said.

This kind of knowledge _ which would not necessarily compromise U.S. technology _ could help the Chinese pinpoint weaknesses in the island’s overall defense alignment.

While insisting that China’s espionage efforts had not undermined Taiwan’s ability to defend itself, Yang, the deputy defense minister, said they showed that China has never let up on trying to steal Taiwan’s most vital military secrets, despite Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou’s recent moves to try to lower tensions across the Taiwan Strait amid rapidly improving commercial and political relations.

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