A general has been arrested over claims he spied for China, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced yesterday, as it scrambled to limit the damage from what it called the worst espionage case in 50 years.
Wang Ming-wo (王明我), acting director of the General Political Warfare Bureau, told a press conference yesterday that General Lo Hsien-che (羅賢哲), head of communications and electronic information at the Army Command Headquarters, was detained on Jan. 25.
Agents from national security bureaus and military prosecutors searched Lo’s office and room in the Army Command Headquarters and his residence and seized confidential documents, Wang said.
Wang said Lo was allegedly recruited by Chinese agents in 2004 in the middle of a 2002 to 2005 posting in Thailand, and could not have done much damage after returning to Taiwan.
During his time in his most recent posting at Army Command Headquarters, Lo was mostly given administrative responsibilities involving mainly non-sensitive tasks, Wang said.
He was promoted to the rank of general on Jan. 1, 2008, but came under suspicion of involvement in espionage last October, Wang said, adding that the ministry cooperated with the national security authorities in investigating the case from the very beginning.
His remarks were seen as a rebuttal of media reports that the military was unaware of Lo’s alleged espionage for China until it received tipoffs from US intelligence units.
Blasting Lo’s alleged espionage as treason, Wang said: “He [Lo] has brought shame to the military. Servicemen are supposed to be loyal to their country.”
“Although tensions across the Taiwan Strait have eased over the past two years, the Chinese communists have not stopped their infiltration into Taiwan,” Wang said. “Instead, they have been stepping up their intelligence gathering, what we call the ‘smokeless war,’ against us.”
Wang said the ministry has set up a special task force composed of officials from the intelligence, communication, anti-espionage, army and military judicial fields to assess any damage that might have been caused by Lo’s alleged activities.
“Various damage control measures have been in the works, some of which are already underway,” Wang said.
The military will also review its education and supervisory regulations and make necessary improvements to better protect defense secrets and intelligence, he added.
Trying to downplay the impact of the alleged intelligence leaks to China, the military said the officer had only limited access to highly classified information as he only had access to parts of systems rather than a more complete overview of the network.
The ministry declined to clarify whether the 51-year-old one-star general had access to a joint Taiwan-US military communications project called Po Sheng, saying that the issue was still being investigated.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Huang--liang (蔡煌瑯) called Lo’s arrest “a big military setback for Taiwan.”
“Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) and Chief of the General Staff General Lin Chen-yi (林鎮夷) should immediately step down to assume full responsibility,” he said.
“The military has to launch an investigation to root out any network of high-ranking officials spying for China,” Tsai said.
Since classified information leaked by Lo might be comprehensive, Tsai said the case may jeopardize Taiwan-US military cooperation projects and might also impact Taiwan’s arms procurement program from the US.