Tue, Aug 31, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Mission in South Korea safe: MOFA

SECURITY FLAP Taiwan's de facto embassy in South Korea was at the center of allegations of leaked secret data, but officials said there is no problem

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday that no irregularities were found in the country's de facto embassy in South Korea's communication services, in response to media reports of chronic lapses in the office's communications security that have led to a "serious" leakage of confidential diplomatic information.

Officials from the ministry and the Bureau of Investigation arrived in Seoul on Aug. 17 to conduct "routine checks" on the mission's communications security network, ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said.

"They did not find any irregularities," he added.

The Chinese-language United Daily News, however, reported that staff in the Seoul office had "discovered" some of the missions confidential files had been leaked just days before the arrival of the team from Taiwan.

The staff checked the office's internal Web sites and found "unclear signs" which indicated the mission's data had "probably" been intercepted.

They reported the situation to the ministry. The ministry and the Bureau of Investigation then decided to add a telecommunications expert to the team, the report said.

The report suggested that "disruptions" in the mission's computer network and telephone services could have been done by "spies," but added that the nationality of the "spies" remains unclear.

Lu said the investigative team has returned to Taiwan and that it will report to the ministry on Friday.

The Bureau of Investigation, which made an official statement responding to the report, declined to say whether confidential data in the mission had been "intercepted" or whether "foreign spies" were involved in the operation.

A bureau official said the team checked all phone lines at the mission and the residence of Li Tsai-fang (李在方), the country's representative to South Korea.

"The team did nothing about the mission's computers. It found some phone lines in Li's residence had not been properly installed. Besides, the problems with phone lines in the mission resulted from unstable voltages. Apart from this, the team did not find any other irregularities," the official said.

Meanwhile, the report also said an official at the mission occupied one of the 25 premises Taiwan owned in South Korea when Taiwan and South Korea cut diplomatic ties in 1992.

"These premises belong to our government, and the ministry is very concerned about the matter. It dispatched four experts from the National Property Bureau to investigate the case in April.

They found nothing wrong," Lu said.

Nevertheless, sources said Li would be returning to Taipei today to report to senior ministry officials regarding the handling of the government's properties in South Korea.

Speaking to reporters at a seminar in Seoul yesterday, Li denied the report of his office's communication security lapses, and called for a thorough investigation to prove the innocence of his staff.

"The ministry and the bureau have sent a team to Seoul to conduct security checks ... But the move was to prevent attacks by international hackers. As the Law of National Secrets Protection (國家機密保護法) came into effect last October, our mission staff were also eager to learn [from the team] how to maintain information security in government agencies," Li said.

"There is no need to look at the security checks in such a strange manner," added Li.

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