China Reportedly Paid Taiwan Officer to Surrender if War Started

(Bloomberg) -- Taiwan is investigating an infantry officer on suspicion he took monthly payments from China for years to gather intelligence and surrender if a war ever broke out, saying the case highlights the “serious threat” posed by Beijing’s espionage.

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The colonel received NT$40,000 ($1,280) each month from China after he was recruited to spy by a retired Taiwanese military officer in 2019, the Central News Agency reported Tuesday, without saying where it got the information.

The officer was suspected of taking a photo holding a signed letter promising to surrender to China if fighting started, CNA said. Other large media outlets in the self-ruled island, such as the Liberty Times and United Daily News, reported similar details on the case, without saying where they got the information.

The episode underscores the challenges Taiwan faces stopping its larger, resource-rich neighbor from snooping, especially on its armed forces. The US has long been worried about Taiwan’s ability to keep technology and other secrets out of Beijing’s hands.

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. Chang was cleared and served as witness in a case that eventually led to the indictments on spy charges in June of a retired general and lieutenant colonel. It was unclear how their situations were resolved.

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The Defense Ministry in Taipei said the allegations against the infantry colonel show “how the Chinese Communist Party’s infiltration and recruitment, intelligence collection and theft of secrets has become a serious threat.” The ministry didn’t name the officer in its statement.

It added that it was taking steps to educate its ranks, from officer down to enlisted men, on Chinese espionage.

When asked about the spying allegations at a regular press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian avoided commenting, saying it wasn’t a diplomatic issue.

Last month, Chinese leader Xi Jinping reaffirmed at a twice-a-decade congress of his ruling party that Beijing was willing to use force to prevent the democratically governed island’s independence.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has courted closer economic and military ties with Washington to counter increased pressure from China, and says she already leads a sovereign nation awaiting broader recognition.

--With assistance from Lucille Liu.

(Updates with comment from China’s Foreign Ministry.)

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