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DEFENSE MINISTER MUM ON REPORTS ABOUT MAINLAND ARREST OF TAIWAN SPIES

2004-02-06 14:21:07

    Taipei, Feb. 6 (CNA) Minister of National Defense Tang Yiau-min declined to make any comments Friday on media reports that mainland China has busted a large Taiwan intelligence network by secretly arresting a number of Taiwanese spies in a raid.

    According to the reports, the intelligence network had been arduously established by Taiwan's military intelligence agents posted in mainland China's Nanjing Military Region for many years.

    As it was the largest spy ring raid since mainland China executed a senior officer of the People's Liberation Army in 1998 after he was convicted of spying for Taiwan, the reports said, the latest mass arrest has drawn much attention in mainland society.

    Before attending a Legislative Yuan plenary session, many reporters repeatedly asked Tang about his views on the reported mainland arrests of Taiwanese intelligence agents.

    In response, Tang said intelligence gathering is important work for protecting the nation's security. "And it's a norm in democratic countries around the world to refrain from making any comments on espionage cases, " Tang said, adding that he hopes local people will support intelligence work and all personnel involved in the operations.

    As intelligence agents work under dangerous, difficult and stressful conditions, Tang said, they need tangible and intangible support. "For the sake of protecting our intelligence operators' safety, we have traditionally not issued any comments on espionage cases. And I hope both news media and ordinary citizens can support this practice," Tang said.

    According to media reports, Col. Lee Yun-pu from the Military Intelligence Bureau under Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense and several other Taiwan intelligence workers under Lee's leadership and a senior mainland army officer were arrested by mainland Chinese authorities earlier this month.

    The reports said Lee was responsible for collecting intelligence about mainland China's Second Artillery Corps and its East China Sea Fleet and activities in the Nanjing Military Region.

    According to the reports, Lee had managed to develop an intelligence network under the guise of a science and technology firm to spy on the Second Artillery Corps' missile base in Loping in Jiangxi Province, where hundreds of missiles aimed at Taiwan are deployed. The reports said Lee's arrest could deal a severe blow to Taiwan's intelligence work in mainland China.

    Meanwhile, a military source who spoke on condition of anonymity said he thinks that mainland China's latest raid was a retaliatory move against Taiwan's arrests of several people on charges of spying for Beijing late last year.

(By Sofia Wu)

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