Fri, Feb 15, 2008 - Page 3 News List

MND seeks answers over spy scandal

PROMINENT EXPAT The Taiwan-born American who allegedly provided US military secrets to Beijing was known in Louisiana for his trading connections to southern China

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON , WITH STAFF WRITER

A Ministry of National Defense (MND) official said yesterday that the military have approached the US Department of Defense to uncover the extent of the damage caused by a spying scandal.

Once a US-based military affairs representative group have completed an investigative report, a representative will visit Taiwan.

The military hopes that the US will ameliorate the possible damage to Taiwan's interests caused by the leaks, said MND official Liu Hsi-lieh (劉溪烈) yesterday in response to a media query.

Rear Admiral Tung Hsiang-lung (董翔龍), director of the MND's planning bureau, said the ministry is required to give an annual report to the Legislative Yuan detailing plans for arms acquisitions for the next five and ten years. The details of those these reports are not classified information.

It remains to be seen whether the military planning information Kuo Tai-sheng (郭台生) leaked to China was classified, Tung said.

Kuo, the Taiwan-born American arrested for allegedly providing secrets on US arms sales to Taiwan to China, was a prominent member of the Louisiana business community who mixed with politicians, the Taipei Times has learned.

Kuo was arrested on Monday by US law enforcement officials for allegedly providing information obtained from US Defense Department weapons systems policy analyst Gregg Bergersen. Kuo was the son-in-law of late admiral Hsueh Yueh (薛岳).

New information is emerging about Kuo, who emigrated from Taiwan to the New Orleans area in 1973 to enroll in Nicholls State University on a tennis scholarship.

His wife also attended Nicholls on a tennis scholarship, friends and acquaintances of the couple say.

After his graduation, Kuo became a prominent member of the expat communities of New Orleans and Houma, opening businesses including a restaurant, a furniture importer and others, often involving trade with China.

He was described in articles by the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper as a major dealer with Chinese businesses and a person who cultivated important business and personal relationships with Chinese officials, mainly in Guangdong Province, Hong Kong and nearby areas.

Tom Becnel, who lived across the street from the Kuos for some 20 years and shared their love of tennis, told the Taipei Times in a telephone interview how things appeared to have changed for the Kuos recently.

Five months ago, the Kuos put their house on the market for US$480,000. But they found no buyers and began to gut the interior to make improvements in an apparent bid to boost the price, Becnel said.

However, there was speculation that the work, which stripped the walls down to the studs, was aimed at uncovering any surveillance devices that may have been planted there, he said.

Some 12 vehicles and 15 FBI agents suddenly descended on the house on Monday, taking large volumes of material from it, Becnel said. While Kuo was arrested in Virginia, it is believed that his wife was living in their New Orleans house at the time, he said.

Becnel, 73, called Kuo a "very popular guy, who had a lot of friends."

They never talked about political issues involving Taiwan.

Nevertheless, "I knew they were Taiwanese and I just kind of assumed that they felt an affinity toward Taiwan as opposed to what we used to call the Red Chinese," he said.

"Once in a while, Tai would show up here at the house. And he would walk around and sit on the porch and he was telling me about his interest in foreign trade and the commissions he had with big American companies doing business in China. And he would throw out sums of money that signified to me that he was making pretty handsome commissions on some of those deals," Becnel said.

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