German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has told China to immediately stop enlisting former German military pilots for the training of its own forces.
Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 2, Pistorius said that he was adamant there should be an immediate cessation of the policy.
“I have made it clear that I expect this policy to be stopped immediately,” he said after meeting his Chinese counterpart at Asia’s most important security conference, adding that while the Chinese defense minister had not denied the practice of hiring former German military pilots, he had whitewashed its significance considerably.
Pistorius did not elaborate further, according to comments shared by Germany’s defense ministry in Berlin.
According to a report by German news magazine Der Spiegel on June 1, former German fighter pilots have been training Chinese military pilots for years.
“For years now, Chinese agencies have sought to embrace former decision-makers who possess privileged knowledge, some of it quite current. They offer lucrative consulting contracts, honors, and invitations to conferences. Their goal is the harvesting of know-how, say experts, including information that has military value,” the report states.
German security officials deem it highly plausible that the pilots have disseminated expert military knowledge to China, including secret operational tactics of German forces and NATO, according to Der Spiegel.
“There appears to be a handful of former German fighter pilots working as trainers in China. And they are apparently earning salaries that would normally be reserved for professional athletes or top executives of multinational corporations,” according to the report.
But this could be just the tip of the iceberg.
According to the security officials, they could have further included the exercising of attack scenarios, which China could utilize as a strategy to launch an offensive on Taiwan, Der Spiegel reported.
Moreover, the military training is not confined to German fighter pilots.
In October last year, the British Ministry of Defence revealed that more than two dozen former UK military pilots are believed to have trained members of China’s People’s Liberation Army. Each pilot is again paid a lucrative package for the training, in excess of $250,000.
The UK has discouraged the practice, however legislation to put an end to it has yet to be put into place.
The Epoch Times reported last November that Beijing is also recruiting large numbers of French, Australian, and Canadian pilots to train its air force.
Pistorius further stressed the importance of upholding the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific to his Chinese counterpart, as well as the significance of free passage in the region for the trade purposes.
As part of a longer trip through the Asian region after his departure from Singapore, Pistorius is now set to head to Indonesia and India.