Attempted Military Espionage: Chinese-recruited Military Personnel Planned to Steal Helicopter in Taiwan

Over the past decade, at least 21 active or retired Taiwanese officers ranked captain and above have been convicted of involvement in espionage activities.

12/12/2023 - 14:51
Source: The Drive
Source: The Drive

Taiwan has arrested an Air Force lieutenant colonel who purportedly intended to defect to China by flying a CH-47 helicopter to a Chinese aircraft carrier near the Taiwan Strait in exchange for $15 million USD, as reported by citing Taipei Times.

It was revealed that a Chinese espionage group, led by retired military officer Chen Yuxin, approached the army aviation lieutenant colonel named Se. He was invited to Bangkok to meet Chen and two individuals claiming to be officers of the People's Liberation Army of China. They proposed evacuating Se's family to Thailand in case of conflict, offering him $100,000 monthly. In return, the lieutenant colonel was expected to board a CH-47F Chinook helicopter to the Chinese carrier in the strait.

Se deemed the risk too high and declined, as per the publication's statement. Subsequently, the group increased their offer to half the helicopter's value, amounting to $15 million USD, stating they would pay an advance of $1 to $2 million USD.

Prosecutors and investigators obtained information about the plan and arrested Se and the person who provided information before the operation was executed.

According to Taiwan's Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng, in recent years, the armed forces have intensified their efforts to investigate such cases, holding suspects accountable, sharing information with prosecutors, and monitoring any inflicted damage.

Notably, at least 16 individuals have been charged with spying for China since the beginning of 2023. This marks a significant increase from the 44 espionage cases recorded between 2013 and 2019.

Experts believe the surge in espionage activities aligns with preparations for Taiwan's presidential elections scheduled for January 13.

In July, five individuals were arrested for allegedly establishing a spy network. Concern heightened after retired Air Force Colonel Liu Sheng-su was sentenced to 20 years in prison in October for leading a military espionage network linked to Beijing.

Against this backdrop, Taiwan's National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Ming-yen previously explained that Beijing systematically wages a "war without gunfire" against Taiwan.

This unconventional warfare encompasses actions like intrusions into Taiwan's air defense identification zone, diplomatic isolation efforts, and import bans.

As Taiwan's presidential elections approach, many observers anticipate increased interference from China. Director-General Tsai also highlighted Beijing's persistent cyberattacks on Taiwan, indicating a multifaceted strategy aimed at influencing the upcoming elections.

Recent espionage cases underscore the complexity of security challenges faced by Taiwan amid geopolitical tensions in its relationship with China.

Nevertheless, Taiwan's counterintelligence efforts appear particularly focused on the military sphere. A significant majority of detained espionage suspects are either linked to the military or accused of attempting to involve soldiers in espionage activities.

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