US official queries defense, China spies

UNRELIABLE PARTNER?:The US Department of State official asked whether Taiwanese businesses with Chinese commercial interests could be relied on to protect technologies

By Nadia Tsao and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter in Washington, with staff writer and CNA

Sat, Sep 16, 2017 - Page 3

US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David Helvey on Thursday once again called into question Taiwan’s ability to protect sensitive technologies from Chinese spies, should the US agree to transfer them to Taiwan, at a symposium held by the Global Taiwan Institute in Washington.

The one-day event, titled “Upgrading US-Taiwan relations for the 21st century,” marked the institute’s first annual symposium.

Helvey posited the question whether Taiwanese businesspeople with obvious commercial benefits in China would be involved in Taiwan’s autonomous national defense projects.

US-Taiwan relations have been stiff since the Monterey Talks in Hawaii last month, at which both sides devoted significant time to the case of Hsieh Chia-kang (謝嘉康).

Hsieh, a former missile command commander, is still under investigation after reports in May said he had been turned by Chinese covert operatives.

Hsieh was accused of being treated to luxuries by Chinese intelligence operatives during trips abroad. As a former commander of the Air Defense Missile Command, Hsieh was fully briefed on deployments of all of the nation’s missiles, including the Patriot III, the Tien Kung III and the Hsiung Feng 2E cruise missile.

Helvey’s talk on Thursday was similar to his talk at the US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference in October last year, a sign that the US doubts Taiwan’s capacity to protect military secrets as strongly under US President Donald Trump’s administration as it did under former US president Barack Obama.

While President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) government favors self-manufactured defense systems and hopes the US can help the nation develop diesel submarines and trainer jets, Helvey said the US did not have much technology it could share to help Taiwan develop its national defense industry.

Transfer of sensitive technologies must conform to US standards and before Taiwanese and US private enterprises could sign partnership deals, new regulations must be introduced to prevent the inappropriate transfer of data and knowledge, he said.

Beijing showed no signs of abandoning the idea to occupy Taiwan by force, Helvey added.

He said that Taiwan’s defense transformation should focus on “prioritizing defense resourcing; prioritizing homeland defense; developing a capable, effective force; and investing in asymmetric capabilities.”

A key topic at the symposium was the possibility of the US stationing nuclear weapons in Taiwan, South Korea or Japan to force China to cooperate on North Korea.

Former US deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia Abraham Denmark rejected the idea of dragging Taiwan into the North Korean issue and said that such a strategy would not help add pressure on China.

Denmark recommended that the US’ focus should instead be on bolstering US-Taiwan defense ties and supporting Taiwan’s own defense capabilities, adding that it did not include providing the country with nuclear weapons.

Former assistant US secretary of defense, Asian and Pacific security affairs Wallace Gregson, who did not comment on nuclear weapons, was in favor of the US positioning a missile defense system in Taiwan should North Korea’s continued missile tests threaten the nation.

Talk in certain South Korean media about a redeployment of US nuclear weapons to Japan and South Korea was indicative of the region’s lack of trust in the US’ nuclear umbrella — the guarantee that the US will protect non-nuclear allied states, Denmark said.