The UK is concerned about the Chinese army’s employment of former British fighter pilots, a top British official said on Tuesday.
James Heappey, minister of state for armed forces, said a law prohibiting such employment would be introduced to stop pilots from being recruited by China’s People’s Liberation Army.
According to reports, as many as 30 former military jets and helicopter pilots are in China as training pilots with an annual salary of £240,000 ($272,000).
“It’s been a concern within the MoD (Ministry of Defence) for a number of years, counter intelligence people have been looking at it closely,” Heappey said, speaking to Sky News.
“We have approached the people that are involved and being clear with them that it is our expectation that they would not continue to be part of that organization,” he said.
“And we are going to put into law that once people have been given that warning it will become an offense to then go forward and continue with that training.”
“China is a competitor that is threatening UK interests in many places around the world,” Heappey said, adding that the Asian country was also an “important trading partner.”
“But, there is no secret in their attempt to gain access to our secrets. And the recruitment of pilots to understand the capabilities of our Air Force is clearly a concern to us and the intelligence part of the MoD.”
The Ministry of Defence’s intelligence service on Tuesday issued a “threat alert” to warn serving and former military personnel against such attempts to recruit them, mainly by third-party contractors.