Australia reviews defense policy amid claims China recruiting ex-pilots

Sydney, Australia, Nov 9 (EFE).- Canberra on Wednesday announced it will launch a review of its defense policies amid claims that Beijing has attempted to recruit former Australian military pilots to train members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

“The information provided to me so far presents enough evidence to warrant the need for a detailed examination into the adequacy of current defense policies and procedures addressing this matter,” said Australian Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles in a statement, recalling that he had asked his ministry to investigate the Chinese recruitment reports when they arose last month.

The scandal first broke on Oct. 19 when The Australian newspaper reported that Australians were among about 30 western pilots, mostly British, that the Chinese military had recruited.

“It’s no secret that defense activities, people and assets are targets for foreign intelligence services,” Marles said. “But let me be clear: Australians who work or have worked for the government in any capacity, particularly our ADF, who come into possession of the nation’s secrets, have an obligation to maintain those secrets beyond their employment with, or their engagement with, the Commonwealth.”

Meanwhile, a former United States fighter pilot identified as Daniel Edmund Duggan, 54, was arrested on Oct. 21 in the city of Orange, about 200 kilometers west of Sydney, at the request of Washington, although under secrecy as the charges remain sealed.

Duggan, who renounced his American citizenship and is now an Australian citizen, was a pilot and flight instructor in the US Marines for more than a decade, before moving to Australia where he ran a flight company, and then worked in Beijing, according to various news outlets.

His lawyer said he will vigorously fight extradition to the US.

The news of his arrest on Oct. 21, as well as reports of Chinese recruitment, came just days after British public broadcaster BBC reported on Oct. 18 that Beijing is trying to attract former British military pilots to train members of the PLA in exchange for lucrative packages of up to $270,000. EFE


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