Mainland 'honey trap' may have snared general

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 February, 2011, 12:00am

Taiwan's arrest of an army major general for allegedly leaking top military secrets to Beijing took a dramatic turn yesterday after reports that he was the victim of a honey trap set by a female mainland spy.

Lo Hsien-che, 51, who became the highest-ranking Taiwanese officer ever detained - in what could be Taiwan's worst espionage case in 50 years - was said to have met the woman, described as a tall and beautiful, while he was stationed in Thailand between 2002 and 2005. Taiwanese media, said the fashionably dressed woman, in her early 30s, held an Australian passport and posed as an export-import trader who often travelled between Thailand and the United States.

Though he was already married, Lo fell in love with her and sometimes even travelled with her to the US, even after he returned to Taiwan. That eventually raised the suspicions of American intelligence authorities, who alerted Taipei about his romance, the media said.

Taiwanese media said Lo started leaking classified information to Beijing in 2004 and was paid on a case-by-case basis, sometimes receiving as much as US$1 million.

He was posted back to Taiwan in 2005 as the deputy director of international intelligence affairs, and continued to provide classified information to Beijing until his arrest on January 25, when he was head of the army's communications and electronic information.

Asked to clarify whether Lo had fallen prey to a honey trap, Wang Ming-ho, acting director of the Taiwanese defence ministry's political warfare department, said he could not answer because the case was ongoing.

However, he played down the damage caused by the leaks, saying that although Lo was head of the army's communications and electronic information, he would not have been able to obtain overall details of the Po Sheng project, a highly sensitive war operation and command network built with US help that is linked to the US Pacific Command.

'What he could obtain was merely bits and pieces, which would not create substantial security harm to us,' Wang said.

Wang said the military would give the case 'full scrutiny and adopt all remedies and corrective measures to uphold security'.

Retired military officers and other observers warned yesterday that the leaks might have harmed the military's command and communication systems.

'It might even affect the US,' said retired vice-admiral Lan Ning-li.

Defence expert Arthur Ding, secretary general of Taipei-based Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, said: 'The US must now be worrying about the reliability of Taiwanese officers.'

Some legislators from the pro-independence opposition camp said that the fallout could affect Washington's future military support for Taiwan, including the sale of advanced F-16 C/D fighter jets to the island. Both the Pentagon and the US representative office in Taipei declined to comment.