TAIPEI — As relations improve between Beijing and Taipei, military morale still continues to fall as fewer Taiwan military officers see a future in an ever-shrinking armed forces. Many are beginning to cash in on their intimate knowledge of military secrets, including classified information on US military equipment.
Over the past several years, Taiwan military officers have sold China information on the E-2K Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft, Patriot Advanced Capability-3 and PAC-2 anti-ballistic missile systems, Hawk air defense missile system, and the Raytheon Palm IR-500 radiometric infrared camera.
Taiwan defense sources said that on the Taiwan side, China has collected all the data needed to compromise the Po Sheng C4I upgrade program and the Anyu-4 air defense network upgrade program, Shuan-Ji Plan (electronic warfare technology project), and the Wan Chien (Ten Thousand Swords) joint standoff weapon.
A common anecdote used by the Western media suggests China uses a “grains of sand” or “mosaic” approach to collecting intelligence. That is, China collects intelligence from a broad effort by low-level, often amateur, sources to form an overall picture. However, Chinese efforts in Taiwan indicate otherwise.
The mosaic theory is a common misperception, said Peter Mattis, a fellow at the Jamestown Foundation. “As far as operational techniques, I think the breadth of alleged and proven approaches by Chinese intelligence demonstrates [the usage of] oriented professionals, not the amateur free-for-all that most analysts use to describe Chinese intelligence operations.” Mattis also discovered that the majority of Taiwan spy cases from 2004 to 2011 were cash-driven and not ideological.
Mattis, who wrote the 2012 book, “Chinese Intelligence Operations Reconsidered: Toward a New Baseline,” said the recent case of retired Vice Adm. Ko Cheng-sheng shows the myriad of Chinese spy agencies chasing Taiwan targets.
Ko, formerly deputy Navy commander in 2003, was sentenced to 14 months for violating the National Security Act this month. Ko spied for China from 1998 to 2007 after being recruited by a Taiwan businessman who introduced him to members of the United Front Work Department and “Shanghai City No. 7 Office.” Ko is accused of providing China with the military’s Gu’an Combat Plan for the defense of Taiwan and Penghu.
“In addition to the Ministry of State Security and Second Department of the People’s Liberation Army [PLA] General Staff Department, Taiwanese doing business in the People’s Republic of China will find the PLA’s General Political Department, the United Front Work Department, and any of the local level state security elements” all vying to recruit them, Mattis said.
This year has been harsh. In September, Military Intelligence Bureau’s Col. Lo Chi-cheng was sentenced to 18 years for selling the names of Taiwan spies working in the mainland from 2007 to 2010. In March, retired Marine Corps Col. Liao Yi-tsung was indicted for spying for China. Liao was recruited during a visit to Shanghai in 2010, then recruited Hu Kuang-tai, a special forces instructor who then attempted to recruit up to 10 students before one turned him into authorities. In April, Air Force Maj. Hau Chih-hsiung was sentenced to 20 years for providing data on the E-2K Hawkeye aircraft. A local karaoke club owner allegedly recruited him for Chinese intelligence.
The most devastating case was the 2011 arrest of Maj. Gen. Lo Hsien-che, a Taiwan military attaché assigned to Thailand from 2002 to 2005. According to government sources, Lo was recruited in Thailand and upon returning to Taiwan was given the sensitive post of head of the Army’s telecommunications and electronic information department, where he provided China with information about Taiwan’s cryptography, signal intelligence capabilities, and intelligence sharing with the United States. Lo was sentenced to life in 2012.
China uses retired Taiwan military officers to help recruit spies in the armed forces. Retired officers receive all-expense paid trips to China by the United Front Work Department, said a Taiwan security specialist. While there, they are lionized for returning to the “homeland” and given tours of their ancestral homes. Before they return, money is offered to help the “motherland” in the future, and “unfortunately many take it,” he said.
“The cross-strait contest on intelligence gathering is one of asymmetric warfare,” said Lin Chong-Pin, a former Taiwan deputy minister of defense.
Lin said China enjoys a number of advantages over Taiwan. First, China is a “tightly controlled authoritarian society versus a democratic one given to excess of freedom and laxity of discipline and regulations in Taiwan.” Second, China has a long tradition of winning the espionage war against its rivals, including the Chinese Nationalist Party during the Chinese civil war.
Third, Beijing is resolved in achieving unification with Taiwan versus “the severely divided political persuasion between pro-Taiwanese consciousness and pro-Chinese consciousness in Taiwan.” ■