China has been recruiting former and serving British airforce pilots to train its military personnel, it’s claimed.
The UK government has now said it was taking “decisive steps” to thwart the programme after UK media said that more than 30 ex-pilots had accepted offers upwards of $273,750 to allegedly help train Chinese forces how to defeat Western air forces.
While British military personnel frequently take part in training exercises with foreign armies, any collusion by ex-pilots with China – which London has dubbed the “number one threat” to domestic and global security – will inevitably pose a serious concern.
“We are taking decisive steps to stop Chinese recruitment schemes attempting to headhunt serving and former UK Armed Forces pilots to train People’s Liberation Army personnel,” a spokesperson for the British defence ministry told AFP.
The practice has been going on since 2019 but has been stepped up recently, the reports said.
Also on AF: Japan Repeats Readiness to Back Yen as it Hits 32-Year Low
Britain’s defence ministry said it was “reviewing the use of confidentiality contracts and non-disclosure agreements”, adding that all serving and former personnel are subject to the Official Secrets Act, which prohibits UK public servants from sharing state secrets with foreign powers.
“The new National Security Bill will create additional tools to tackle contemporary security challenges – including this one,” the spokesperson added.
China’s Ministry of National Defense did not respond to calls requesting comment from AFP.
Relations between London and Beijing have soured following China’s crackdown in former UK colony Hong Kong and disputes over technology giant Huawei’s involvement in the rollout of Britain’s 5G network, as well as concerns about human rights and influence peddling.
In a speech in London this month, the director of Britain’s GCHQ spy agency Jeremy Fleming warned China’s growing technological dominance “is an increasingly urgent problem” for Western countries, urging them to act to defend their values and influence.
- Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara
Australia Bids to Boost Pacific Defence Links, Counter China
US Seen Blocking More Chip Exports From China’s Military
China Denies Its Firms Backed Russia’s Military in Ukraine