Australia to Probe Reports That China’s Military Tried to Recruit Pilots

(Bloomberg) -- Australia is investigating reports that China’s military attempted to try to recruit former Defence Force pilots for training, less than a month after the UK government cracked down on similar actions by British aircrews.

Most Read from Bloomberg

An initial probe by Australia’s Defence Department had found “enough evidence” to warrant a second investigation into the issue, Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday. Marles, who is also Minister for Defence, said any ex-forces personnel who share secrets outside of the government have committed a “clear and unambiguous” crime.

“It’s no secret that defense activities, people and assets are targets for foreign intelligence services,” Marles said

The Australian review comes just weeks after a similar UK incident involving former British military pilots. In October, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported that as many as 30 people who had once served in UK armed forces were providing their experience to the Chinese military.

UK Warns Former Military Pilots Against Giving Training to China

Local media reported at the time that Australian pilots were among those who were offered lucrative salaries to train Chinese military pilots. The UK Ministry of Defence said it would take “immediate steps to deter and penalize this activity.”

The Chinese government is currently undertaking a wide-reaching program of military modernization, designed to narrow the capability gap between Beijing’s armed forces and those of Western powers.

Marles said the Australian review would examine current defense policies and procedures but didn’t specify how long it would take or how many cases were under examination.

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.