Saturday, March 5, 2011

Taiwan Reels From Spy Arrest

Defense News


Taiwan Reels From Spy Arrest


TAIPEI - Taiwan military officials are still reeling from the late-January arrest of a one-star army general on accusations of spying for China, the worst espionage scandal in Taiwan's history.

Gen. Lo Hsien-che, who ran the communications, electronics and information division of Army Command Headquarters, stands accused of compromising the Po Sheng (Broad Victory) C4I program. Po Sheng includes a fiber-optic communication cable network and procedures for sharing information with U.S. Pacific Command.

During Lo's 2002-05 stint as defense attaché in Thailand, he was allegedly recruited by a mainland Chinese agent in 2004.

Sources in the Ministry of National Defense (MND) indicated that an investigation into Lo began in October. He was arrested in his home Jan. 25.

MND officials announced his arrest Feb. 8, and said a damage assessment team is looking into how much Lo may have given China.

U.S. officials are pressuring Taiwan to be more transparent about the damage allegedly caused by Lo. The consequences could include losing the Pentagon's confidence in Taiwan's ability to protect U.S. defense technologies sold to the self-rule island. Taiwan is pushing Washington hard for the release of new F-16 fighter aircraft and is awaiting delivery of Patriot PAC-3 air defense missile systems and P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft. All are technologies China is anxious to learn more about.

One former Taiwan defense attaché said the MND is unlikely to dig too deeply. There's a long tradition of "making a big issue small" (da shi hua xiao) in Taiwan's military bureaucracy, the former attaché said.

"Even if the top leader asks whoever is in charge of the investigation to be completely honest, from the second level down, people will most likely try to make it sound less serious," he said.

He said the MND must begin polygraphing returning attachés or risk further problems.

A MND official said the level of damage is uncertain and accused local media outlets of making up quotes and information to sensationalize the Lo case.

What is certain is the Lo case is one of several arrests over the past five years of Taiwan and U.S. officials involved in the Po Sheng program.

These include the 2008 arrest and subsequent conviction of Gregg Bergersen, director of the Pentagon's C4ISR program for Taiwan at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Bergersen was part of the Kuo Tai-shen spy ring that included James Fondren, another Pentagon official working on Taiwan issues. They are now in U.S. federal prisons.

In November, a Taiwan colonel in Taiwan's Military Intelligence Bureau (MIB) was arrested and charged with supplying the names of MIB agents to China.