Investigation ordered for claims China approached ex-ADF staff

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Australia is investigating claims that China has tried to poach ex-servicemen to train its troops.

Defense Secretary Richard Marles has launched an urgent inquiry into the concerns and says there is enough evidence to warrant a review of defense policy and procedures.

The Defense Ministry launched a preliminary investigation last month after reports that China had approached former personnel to provide military training.

“For those who come into possession of our nation’s secrets … there is an abiding obligation to keep those secrets as long as they are secret,” Marles said Wednesday.

“It’s really important that we have the most robust framework possible to protect Australia’s information and our secrets.”

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Mr Marles said any weaknesses would be addressed.

He did not confirm how many people were being investigated, except to say there were “a number of cases”.

“It’s no secret that defense activities, people and resources are targets for foreign intelligence,” he said.

Mr Marles would not confirm whether a specific incident prompted the investigation.

The department will report to him no later than 14 December.

The Deputy Security Secretary for Defense told parliamentarians that Australian military personnel were “attractive targets”.

“It’s up to us … to support them and build a deep awareness in our community that foreign actors will attack our people because of their unique skills,” Celia Perkins told a Senate hearing.

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RAAF chief Robert Chipman said any unauthorized disclosure was a violation.

“There is no doubt that the training they receive will contain sensitive information that they are obligated to protect,” he said.

“It’s clear to them that they need to protect that information while they’re on duty and once they leave.”

Defense Secretary Greg Moriarty said he would fully cooperate with other agencies.

“We will support any investigative work that another agency undertakes,” he said.

Defense supports the Joint Task Force on Counter-Foreign Interference, which also includes the Australian Federal Police and ASIO.

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Liberal Senator James Paterson asked defense bureaucrats if the staff had accepted an offer from a South African intermediary, but they declined to provide further details.

At the beginning of this month, a former US military pilot was arrested in Orange.

Daniel Duggan faces extradition to the US after arriving from China and interacting with Australian intelligence agencies.

The former US citizen and ex-Marine pilot has worked in China as an aviation consultant since 2014.

Details of Washington’s arrest warrant and charges have been sealed.

-MONKEY