Five Eyes nations say China is poaching Western ex-military

The People’s Liberation Army is ‘aggressively recruiting Western military talent.’
By Alex Willemyns for RFA
2024.06.05
Washington
Five Eyes nations say China is poaching Western ex-military Former U.S. Marines Corp pilot Daniel Duggan, who is facing extradition to the United States for allegedly breaking U.S. arms control law after he trained Chinese pilots, poses for a picture in this undated handout picture.
Warwick Ponder/Handout via Reuters

China’s navy and air force have been “aggressively recruiting Western military talent” to train their aviators in complex aerial maneuvers taught by U.S. armed forces, the American-led Five Eyes intelligence sharing network said in a bulletin on Wednesday.

The warning came as former Marine and naturalized Australian citizen Daniel Duggan, 55, fights to avoid extradition to the United States after being accused of training Chinese military pilots at a school in South Africa from 2010 to 2012, when he was a U.S. citizen.

The joint bulletin from the Five Eyes countries – the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand – warns that China’s People’s Liberation Army “continues to target current and former military personnel” to train pilots in advanced techniques.

ENG_CHN_FIVE EYES_06052024.3.jpg
Former U.S. Marines Corps pilot Daniel Duggan in an undated handout photo. (Handout)

Recruitment is “not always obvious, as companies may not initially promote the PLA’s role,” it says. “Job locations may be in China, South Africa, or elsewhere, with lucrative contracts and the opportunity to fly exotic aircraft, with vague details on the ultimate customers.”

Western nations have taken action to counter the threat, the bulletin adds, including putting “commercial restrictions” on private schools like the Test Flying Academy of South Africa, where Duggan worked and said he believed he was only training civilian Chinese pilots.

Duggan, who became an Australian citizen in 2012 and has six school-aged children with his Australian wife, was charged with violating the U.S. Arms Export Control Act for accepting US$100,000 to train Chinese pilots without permission from the State Department.

According to an indictment, Duggan provided “instruction on the tactics, techniques and procedures associated with launching aircraft from and landing aircraft on a naval aircraft carrier” and acquired a U.S. Navy and Marines training aircraft – a T2-Buckeye – to assist.

ENG_CHN_FIVE EYES_06052024.2.jpg
A T-2C Buckeye in flight, March 3, 2004 in Key West, FL. (Ens Darin K. Russell via Wikipedia)

He also lived in Beijing between 2014 and 2020, according to reports, and was an acquaintance of convicted Chinese hacker Su Bin, who was arrested in Canada in 2016 and charged with theft of U.S. military aircraft designs by hacking American defense contractors.

Duggan renounced his American citizenship at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in 2016, and was arrested in Australia in October 2022. He has since been held in a maximum security prison two hours west of Sydney, from which he has strenuously denied the accusations.

Michael Casey, the director of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said Wednesday’s bulletin was meant to warn ex-service members that China’s efforts to recruit them “continue to evolve in response” to countermeasures by Five Eyes militaries.

The bulletin should “deter any current or former Western service members from actions that put their military colleagues at risk and erode our national security,” he said.

POST A COMMENT

Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.

COMMENTS

Mad Mac
Jun 05, 2024 06:19 PM

Your article regarding Daniel Duggan's extradition case contains misleading information and lacks crucial context. Here's a breakdown of key points requiring clarification:
Timeline and Political Landscape:
• The accusations against Mr. Duggan pertain to 2010-2012. It's important to note that this predates the current heightened tensions between China and the West. Back then, the political climate towards China was significantly different.
Selective Targeting and Contractor Role:
• The article fails to mention the lack of charges against anyone else involved in the alleged training program. This raises questions about whether Mr. Duggan, a contractor, was solely targeted.
• The term "lucrative" is subjective. Compared to other deals involving sensitive technologies, like the sale of the Port of Darwin, $100,000 seems less significant.
Guilt by Association:
• The mention of Su Bin creates an unnecessary association between Mr. Duggan and a separate hacking case. This connection seems irrelevant to the pilot training accusations.
Confiscated Passport and Limited Options:
• The article omits the crucial detail of Mr. Duggan's confiscated passport by Chinese authorities. This considerably restricts his ability to freely leave China, potentially impacting his decisions and timeline.
Mr. Duggan's case deserves a more comprehensive analysis. The focus should be on the specific charges, evidence presented, and the context surrounding his actions during 2010-2012.