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UK seeks to block Chinese recruitment of British military pilots

The British government said on Tuesday it was taking steps to stop China trying to recruit serving and former British military pilots to train the Chinese armed forces.

The BBC reported on Tuesday that up to 30 former military pilots had gone to train members of China’s People’s Liberation Army.

“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 in the People’s Republic of China,” a Ministry of Defence spokesperson said in a statement.

Armed forces minister James Heappey told Sky News such recruitment had been a concern within the Ministry of Defence for “a number of years” and British counter intelligence had been looking at it closely.

“China is a competitor that is threatening the UK interest in many places around the world. It’s also an important trading partner,” he said.

“But there is no secret in their attempt to gain access to our secrets and the recruitment of pilots in order to understand the capabilities of our air force is clearly a concern to us.”

Heappey said those involved in the training had been approached and told to stop, and the government was putting in place a law that meant once people had received that warning, it would be an offence to continue with it.

The department also said it was “reviewing the use of confidentiality contracts and non-disclosure agreements” and it highlighted that all British military personnel were subject to secrecy laws.

Last week, Jeremy Fleming, director of Britain’s GCHQ spy agency, said China was using its financial and scientific muscle to manipulate technologies in a manner that risks global security, warning that the actions could represent “a huge threat to us all”.

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