Tue, Dec 23, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Defense experts say Hong Kong report a political trick

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Political observers said yesterday that a report in a Hong Kong newspaper claiming that China had smashed a Taiwanese spy ring highlighted the alarming number of politicians willing to aid China's attempts to broadside Taiwan's leader.

The report in Ming Pao said that China had been able to trace the Taiwanese spy ring after President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) had detailed the exact number and location of Chinese ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan. At the time, People First Party (PFP) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) had warned that Chen's revelation could endanger national security.

"It is not that Lin has the power to see the future," said Holmes Liao (廖宏祥), a lecturer at National Defense University and research fellow at the Taiwan Research Institute's Division of Strategic and International Studies.

"Rather, it's more that China is following Lin's screenplay to deal a blow to Taiwan's national leaders."

In the story published yesterday, Ming Pao reported that Chinese authorities had arrested 21 Taiwanese and 15 Chinese in connection with the incident.

At a campaign rally earlier this month Chen said that China had deployed 96 missiles each in Leping and Ganxiao in Jiangxi Province and Meizhou in Guangdong Province, as well as 144 in Yongan and 64 in Xianyou in Fujian Province

Chen's comments brought immediate criticism from the opposition camp, which accused the president of leaking military secrets.

Lin branded Chen a "big mouth" and said that Chen's remarks might reveal the source of Taiwan's military information and expose Taiwanese intelligence agents working in China.

Presidential Office spokesman James Huang (黃志芳) yesterday denied the Ming Pao report, saying that "some Hong Kong media often cite unnamed sources to back up their reports for political purposes."

"The report was intended to deal a blow to President Chen," Huang added.

Noting that it was impossible for China to take action against Taiwanese spies less than one month after Chen's statement, Liao said only two things could be concluded from the newspaper report.

"It either means that Taiwan's spy rings are extremely vulnerable or the report was published to serve [China's] political purposes," Liao said.

"I personally think the latter is the more likely scenario," Liao said.

Adding that China had recently refrained from hitting out directly at Taiwan's leaders, Liao said that China was now resorting to following the action's of Taiwan's opposition politicians.

"It is therefore Taiwan's underlying concern that a small number of politicians in Taiwan are willing to be used by China," Liao added.

Echoing Liao's comments, Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), a political commentator and editor in chief of Contemporary Monthly magazine, said that usually it would take more than two years to follow leads and act on information regarding foreign spy rings.

Chin said that, as the article failed to name sources, it is likely that its purpose was to serve China's political agenda.

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