An alleged Chinese ‘spy plot’ in the UK should be a wake-up call for Australia, an expert has warned.
British counterterrorism police are investigating an alleged plot to pass military secrets to China and have arrested a man in his 70s under the Official Secrets Act.
UK media reports that the man is a former employee of jet engine maker Rolls-Royce. He has reportedly denied any wrongdoing.
The arrest comes in the wake of reports police fear classified information about Britain’s new F-35 jets may have been passed to China.
Australia is spending $17b to equip the Royal Australian Air Force with 72 of the F-35 aircraft – the country’s biggest ever defence purchase.
China defence expert Adam Ni, of the Australian National University, told nine.com.au the Asian superpower is ready to use “covert” efforts to access secret military technology.
“The covert parts of China’s military technology acquisition programme include cyber espionage, and bribery of Western experts.”
Mr Ni also said the UK investigation was a warning for the Australian defence sector.
“Similar covert efforts of acquiring technology for military use is undoubtedly happening in Australia. China’s intelligence agencies almost certainly would be targeting Australian experts, companies and government organisations.
The British military has just taken delivery of the first batch of its F-35 fighters. (Photo: PA).
“Australia experts, companies and government organisations should he highly vigilant of China’s covert activities in order to ensure that technological secrets do not fall into the hands of the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army).
“China’s covert activities could compromise Australia’s defence research institutions.”
Defence expert Sam Roggeveen, a senior fellow at the Lowy Institute, told nine.com.au the suspected plot highlighted how desperate China was to keep up with Western defence projects.
The Asian superpower is currently developing its own stealth fighters as part of an expanded military.
US aviation company Lockheed Martin produces the F-35 fighter for Western air forces. (AP).
“China has a history of industrial espionage and unlicensed copies of foreign weapons – mainly Russian,” said Dr Roggeveen.
“It’s no surprise they are prepared to do this in support of their military development.”
Built by US aviation company Lockheed Martin, the F-35 is one of the world’s most advanced warplanes.
Designed with stealth technology it is capable of avoiding detection from technology such as radar.
By RICHARD WOOD