Beijing Headhunting Military Forces for PLA Training Instigates Defense Inquiry

The Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles has requested the Australian Defense Forces (ADF) launch an investigation into allegations Beijing has been headhunting former and serving members.

This comes after the BBC reported that up to 30 former UK military pilots were believed to have been recruited by the Chinese regime to train members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which led to the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) issuing an intelligence threat warning about the campaign.

The BBC alleges that the UK government became aware of the recruitment drive targeting military pilots who have experience on fast jets—like the Typhoon, Jaguar, Harrier and Tornado—and helicopters in 2019, and that Beijing had ramped up its efforts recently with current serving personnel being targeted.

The training is said to have been completed in South Africa, and the UK MOD has noted that other allied nations have also been targeted.

It is believed the Chinese regime’s recruitment drive is to help PLA fighter pilots understand how western forces operate, which could be crucial in any conflict between the west and China.

In an email to The Epoch Times, Marles said that he had “asked the [defence] department to investigate these claims and come back to my office with clear advice on this matter.”

NTD Photo
Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles attends a joint press conference with France’s defence minister at the castle of Brest, western France, on Sept. 1, 2022. (Jean-Francois Monier/AFP via Getty Images)

Marles, who is also Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, noted that Australia is deeply grateful for the service defence personnel provide to the country and that he would be shocked if ex-military personnel had taken up the offer.

“When our ADF personnel sign up to the Defence Force, they do so to serve their country, and we are deeply grateful of that,” he said. “I would be deeply shocked and disturbed to hear that there were personnel who were being lured by a paycheck from a foreign state above serving their own country.”

UK Government Looking to Introduce New Laws to Stop Beijing’s Intelligence Gathering

The defence minister’s request for the investigation comes as the Minister of Armed Forces and Veterans, James Heappey, said the UK government would be looking to introduce new laws that would ensure retired defence members did not pass on intelligence to countries in the future.

“It certainly doesn’t match my understanding of service of our nation—even in retirement—to then go and work with a foreign power, especially one that challenges the UK interest so keenly,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Chinese military pilots
This picture taken on Nov. 11, 2014, shows Chinese female J-10 fighter pilot Yu Xu leaving the plane after performing at the Airshow China in Zhuhai, south China’s Guangdong province.
The first woman to fly China’s J-10 fighter plane was killed in a crash during an aerobatics training exercise, state-run media reported on Nov. 14, 2016. (Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, an MOD spokesperson said: “We are taking decisive steps to stop Chinese recruitment schemes attempting to headhunt serving and former UK armed forces pilots to train People’s Liberation Army personnel in the People’s Republic of China.”

“All serving and former personnel are already subject to the Official Secrets Act, and we are reviewing the use of confidentiality contracts and non-disclosure agreements across Defence, while the new National Security Bill will create additional tools to tackle contemporary security challenges—including this one,” the spokesperson said.

According to the BBC, a spokesperson from MOD in a press briefing said there was no evidence that any of the recruited pilots had broken the Official Secrets Act or that they had committed any crime.

From The Epoch Times

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