Taiwan’s ability to defend itself in the event of a Chinese invasion has been badly compromised by the nation’s worst espionage case in 50 years, a former spy chief said over the weekend.
Former National Security Council secretary-general Ting Yu-chou (丁渝洲) said the nation’s plans for repelling invading forces needed to be entirely rethought following the arrest of a senior communications operative on charges of spying for Beijing.
The military has been scrambling to contain the possible fallout since General Lo Hsien-che (羅賢哲) was arrested last month.
The 51-year-old was in charge of the army’s telecommunications and electronic information department. Reports said he would have had access to highly sensitive information of great value to Beijing.
“Since I have served as the army commander-in-chief, military intelligence chief and National Security Bureau chief before, I fully understand the importance of Lo’s position,” Ting told the Chinese-language China Times.
“The worst damage wrought by Lo could be on the army’s defense operation plans,” he said.
“Lo was deeply involved in military wargames and was supposed to be familiar with Taiwan’s countermeasures against the Chinese,” he said.
Although the Ministry of National Defense has said it was not immediately clear how much harm Lo had caused the military, Ting said it should “prepare for the worst.”
“The army’s defense operation plans, from the codename to the content, must be revised,” he said.
Local media said prosecutors had seized highly confidential documents while searching Lo’s office.
Some reportedly detail the Po Sheng (“Broad Victory”) system, a sophisticated command, control and communications network that the nation is purchasing from US defense contractor Lockheed Martin at a cost of NT$46 billion (US$1.6 billion).
China is believed to be very interested in learning more about the project, which gives the Taiwan’s military some access to US intelligence systems, the China Times said.
Other documents detail the army’s procurement of 30 Boeing-made Apache AH-64D Longbow attack helicopters and the army’s underground fiber optic network system, it said.
Meanwhile, a senior defense official told the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) that Lo showed an extensive understanding of Chinese espionage activities in Southeast Asia, which explained why he could quickly climb up the ranks after he returned from his posting in Thailand and begin to gain access to confidential information.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that as a military attache at the Economic and Trade Office in Thailand, Lo frequently reported Chinese espionage activity in Thailand, as well as in other Southeast Asian countries.
The official said Lo also showed a full grasp of the intelligence operations among Southeast Asian countries, adding that the information might have been given to him by the Chinese government to secure the trust of the Taiwanese military.
When they [military attaches] return from overseas, a majority of them would continue their careers in their branch of the armed services, ” the official said. “Some of them would apply to be discharged from the military because of limited career opportunities that were still available to them after they returned — mainly because they were unable to complete their military education or hold important military posts, which are -crucial factors for promotion.”