LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday it has issued an intelligence alert warning former and current military pilots against Chinese headhunting programs aimed at recruiting them to train the People’s Liberation Army.
Armed forces minister James Heappey said authorities will make it a legal offense for pilots to continue with such training activities.
Sky News and the BBC reported that about 30 British former military pilots are currently in China training PLA pilots. The reports said the pilots are paid annual salaries of 240,000 pounds ($272,000) to conduct the training.
“China is a competitor that is threatening the U.K. interest in many places around the world,” Heappey told Sky News. “It is also an important training partner but there is no secret in their attempt to gain access to our secrets, and their recruitment of our pilots in order to understand the capabilities of our air force is clearly a concern to us.”
A Ministry of Defense spokesperson said authorities are reviewing the use of confidentiality contracts across defense departments as part of measures to stop Chinese recruitment programs in their track.
Tobias Ellwood, a lawmaker who chairs Parliament’s defense committee, said it was surprising there weren’t already laws preventing British pilots from training members of the Chinese army.
Heappey said all former pilots who have been recruited to train Chinese counterparts have been approached and warned against continuing such work.