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Taiwan's military denies leak of major secrets in China spy case

2012/10/29 20:31

Taipei, Oct. 29 (CNA) No classified submarine navigational charts or underwater topographic information were leaked in a case in which a retired naval officer allegedly spied for China, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said Monday.

The Chinese-language Apple Daily reported Monday that Chang Chih-hsin, formerly the chief officer in charge of political warfare at the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography (METOC) Office, sold top military secrets, including submarine nautical charts, to China.

The MND confirmed that Chang was arrested earlier this year on suspicion of obtaining classified information through former military colleagues and using it for illegal gains, but it denied that his actions resulted in the exposure of any military secrets.

An initial investigation found that Chinese intelligence personnel made contact with Chang through unidentified intermediaries while he was still serving in the Navy, the ministry said in a statement.

Military authorities were tipped off about Chang's conspiracy in March and immediately took measures to limit any damage. The case was then transferred to the Military Prosecutors Office for further investigation after some evidence was gathered, the statement said.

Because the case was discovered in time and naval authorities quickly took anti-espionage steps, the statement said, Chang was not privy to classified information during his time at the Naval METOC Office.

The ministry also denied that any officer in active service was involved in the case, but MND spokesman Luo Shou-he said earlier Monday that two other retired military officers have been arrested in connection to Chang's alleged spying.

According to the Apple Daily, Chang visited Xiamen in southeastern China three months after his retirement in May, which the paper said indicated that the military has not strictly enforced regulations governing visits to China by military service members or retirees.

The MND responded, however, that Chang was not subject to such regulations because he did not have access to military secrets during his time in the Navy and was only responsible for unclassified ocean bottom topography and hydrographic data.

MND officials said no military officers with access to classified information are able to visit China within specified periods of time after they retire because the military consistently refers their names to the National Immigration Agency to prevent their travel to China.

The MND's Luo also played down the case's possible damage to national security, saying Chang had limited access to sensitive naval information.

The Apple Daily quoted a retired Navy admiral as saying the Naval METOC Office deals with a lot of classified information, such as meteorological and underwater topographic information and submarine battle plans.

The information has been used by the country's submarines and other warships, the paper said.

"If China had the classified information, it would be able to be aware of the operations of Taiwan's submarines," the retired admiral said.

Although relations across the Taiwan Strait have improved significantly over the past four years, China has not renounced the use of force against Taiwan, and it continues to actively spy on the self-governed island it claims as its own, often through active or retired Taiwanese military officers.

In July 2011, a Taiwanese Army general lured by a honey trap into spying for China was sentenced to life in prison in one of the country's worst spying cases in decades.

(By Chen Pei-huang and Sofia Wu) enditem/ls