RAF pilots training Chinese airmen alarms UK

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — The United Kingdom government said on Tuesday it was taking “decisive steps” against a Chinese recruitment effort to bring in former and serving Royal Air Force pilots to train its military personnel.

While British military personnel frequently take part in training exercises with foreign armies, any collusion by ex-pilots with China — which London has dubbed the “number one threat” to domestic and global security — poses a serious concern.

“We are taking decisive steps to stop Chinese recruitment schemes attempting to headhunt serving and former UK Armed Forces pilots to train People’s Liberation Army personnel,” a spokesperson for the British defense ministry told AFP.

UK media said that over 30 ex-pilots had accepted offers upwards of £240,000 ($273,750) with many of those recruited in their 50s and having recently left the British airforce.

The practice has been going on since 2019 but has been stepped up recently, the reports said.

Britain’s defense ministry said it was “reviewing the use of confidentiality contracts and non-disclosure agreements,” adding that all serving and former personnel are subject to the Official Secrets Act, which prohibits UK public servants from sharing state secrets with foreign powers.

“The new National Security Bill will create additional tools to tackle contemporary security challenges including this one,” the spokesperson added.

China’s Ministry of National Defense did not respond to calls requesting comment from AFP.

Relations between London and Beijing have soured following China’s crackdown in former UK colony Hong Kong and disputes over technology giant Huawei’s involvement in the roll-out of Britain’s 5G network, as well as concerns about human rights and influence peddling.

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