Taiwan authorities have detained a major-general on suspicion of spying for China in the highest-level spy scandal to hit the island since the lifting of martial law in 1987, officials said.
"The prosecution department of the high military court in the defense ministry directed its investigation bureau personnel to search the home and office of Lo Hsien-che on Jan. 25," said Taiwan defense ministry official Wang Mingwo.
"At the same time, they detained him ahead of a court hearing."
Wang said the military court had handed the case over to the judicial authorities in Taiwan, which has been governed separately from mainland China since the ruling Kuomintang Nationalist Party fled there after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong's communists in 1949.
Taiwan and China have spied on each other ever since the end of the
civil war. Beijing still regards the island as part of its territory
and has threatened military action should the island formally declare
"It emerged during interrogation that Lo Hsien-che was suspected of engaging in some serious leaking of secrets, as well as suspected attempts to escape, and to cover up the evidence," Wang said.
"Therefore, the high military court has applied for permission to continue to detain him while they pursue vigorous investigations into this case," he said late on Tuesday.
Wang said Lo had apparently been recruited by the mainland Chinese secret service during a tour of duty overseas in Thailand from 2002-2005.
The defense ministry began to suspect that he had been leaking military secrets in 2010 and referred the case for investigation.
Wang said the Taiwan military has no further involvement with the case other than damage limitation measures, for which purpose it would cooperate fully with the investigative agencies.
More spying seen
Lo's arrest comes amid fast-warming ties between Taipei and Beijing following the 2008 election of Ma Ying-jeou of the now China-friendly Kuomintang as Taiwan's president.
"But that doesn't mean there is less espionage by mainland secret services against Taiwan," Wang said. "On the contrary, there is more and more of it."
Wang called on the island's military chiefs and general public to be on their guard.
Opposition lawmaker Tsai Huang-lang from the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which has campaigned for Taiwan's independence, called for the resignation of top military figures.
"Defence minister Kao Hua-chu and the ministry's chief of staff Lin Chen-yi should immediately step down to assume full responsibility," Tsai said.
The scandal may affect a proposed U.S. sale of next-generation F-16 fighter jets and submarines, if Washington fears the deal could cause military secrets to fall into Chinese hands.
The United States is obliged by its own laws to supply arms to Taiwan despite the fact that Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.
U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin has recently expressed interest in developing Taiwan's Po Sheng C4ISR program, a system that will integrate aviation, ground, naval, and C2 assets in a single network, worth U.S. $3.9 billion over its lifetime.
Reported by Li Tong for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.