The German defense minister, Boris Pistorius, asked China on Saturday to stop recruiting former pilots of the German air force, Luftwaffe, to train Chinese pilots, an action by which the regime in Beijing could obtain NATO secrets.
“I talked about the issue of German Bundeswehr pilots who were apparently recruited to provide training for Chinese military pilots,” Boris Pistorius told the press after a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Li Shangfu Li, at a security conference held in Singapore.
“I made it clear that I expected this practice to stop immediately, and I told him that he probably wouldn’t be very pleased if I tried to do the same,” the German minister said. According to him, the Chinese minister “did not deny, but relativized from his point of view this matter”, continued Pistorius.
German weekly Der Spiegel and German public television ZDF reported on Friday that several former German army pilots have been recruited in recent years by China to train its military pilots. The German pilots were paid through front companies in the Seychelles, and some of them were allegedly employed by the company of a member of the Chinese secret services.
According to the two German sources, this business came to the attention of the commission for the control of intelligence services in the Bundestag, the German federal parliament, for several weeks.
“We are concerned that these soldiers, after working for the German state, may have jobs through which they betray state secrets,” said the president of this commission, Konstantin von Notz, to the ZDF station.
The respective German pilots were trained on Eurofighter fighter jets and had participated in NATO exercises. Germans fear, thus, that NATO’s tactical and intervention secrets could have come into China’s possession.
The German Ministry of Defense is considering opening an investigation after similar cases were revealed in recent years in Britain and the US.