National Security Bureau (NSB) officials yesterday said they are looking into amending the law on access to restricted areas, after revelations that two German visitors were detained briefly last month outside an air base in Taichung on suspicion of espionage.
Bureau Deputy Director Wang Te-lin (王德麟) said the agency would discuss the matter with lawmakers and seek to amend the Military Vital Area Regulations (要塞堡壘地帶法) and related laws.
The case was the subject of discussion in the legislature on Monday, after it was learned the two German visitors took photographs of advanced jet fighters and their armaments during training flights on the perimeter of Taichung’s Chingchuankang (清泉崗) Air Base, which houses the Air Force Composite 427th Wing.
The German pair might have been spying for China by taking photographs with powerful cameras of advanced aircraft and passing the images on to Chinese media outlets, because pictures of armed forces activities and deployed weaponry have been published on Chinese military news sites, Wang said.
Wang said that the bureau had checked the backgrounds of the two Germans.
“So far, there is no indication that the two individuals have links to Chinese intelligence agencies,” Wang said. “However, we cannot say anything definitive; just that we have not received reports to indicate” they are engaged in spying.
The incident took place on Feb. 24, when military security officers briefly detained and questioned the two men on the perimeter of the air base.
When checking their cameras, authorities allegedly found photographs of Indigenous Defense Fighters taking off and landing during training flights, along with pictures of the nation’s army bases and naval port facilities and of military bases in Japan, South Korea and the US.
The security officers made the two Germans delete the “photographs that were taken illegally,” then they were allowed to leave, reports said.
However, it was not clear whether all pictures of Taiwanese military operations were erased or whether there were copies.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) said the two foreigners might have been on an intelligence-gathering mission for China and there should have been a more thorough investigation.
“The officers at the scene were not alert enough, since it could have been spying,” Wang Ting-yu said. “They allowed the two men to leave after supposedly deleting the photographs. The foreigners were let go too easily.”
Regulations only permitted the security personnel to ask that the images be deleted as the people had not broken the law, Wang Te-lin said, adding that he recommend that the regulations be amended.
The bureau and the Ministry of Defense cannot do anything about military buffs who photograph advanced military jets, weapons and troop exercises and post the images on public Web sites, Wang said.
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