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Taiwan rounds up alleged China spy ring

Taipei, May 11. (AP): Taiwan has arrested 17 military officers and civilians on suspicion of passing military secrets to rival China, the island's military said Wednesday.

Senior officers said information leaked from the Ministry of National Defense included details about Chinese military exercises, but not more sensitive information about missile systems or secret codes.

A ministry statement said the key figure in the alleged spy ring was Maj. Chuang Poh-hsing, who worked in a unit of the ministry's electronic information department that was believed to handle sensitive missile systems data.

"The documents he leaked included information about annual military exercises by China's navy and air force, ... but no missile, radar, or secret information codes," Lt. Gen. Li Hsiang-chou, the department's chief, told reporters.

The information about China's exercises would be of interest to Beijing because it could indicate what Taiwan knew about China's military capabilities, the military said.

Chuang was believed to have had no access to the department's most sensitive information because he had been employed there for only one year at a low security level, Li said.

Chuang, who worked at the department's office in the Taipei suburb of Linkou, allegedly handed the information to a retired officer, Huang Yao-chung, the ministry said. Huang was among those arrested Tuesday.

Investigators said they uncovered the spy ring after the coast guard found that a suspect arrested last September for smuggling guns and drugs was also involved in passing confidential information to China and making false credit cards.

The leader of the credit card forgers, Su Tung-hung, was among the other suspects arrested Tuesday, when more than 200 investigators searched 20 locations and found dozens of secret documents, as well as more than 100 million New Taiwan dollars' (US$3 million) worth of machinery used to produce fake cards, the Ministry of Justice said.

One of the premises searched was Chuang's home, where investigators found suspicious documents, Li said.

Taiwan and China frequently announce the arrest and conviction of alleged spies and are believed to be running extensive spy networks on the other's territory.

The sides split at the end of a civil war more than five decades ago, but Beijing still threatens military force should the island move toward declaring formal independence.

Taiwan's defense ministry said it would boost security to "effectively track down and attack any illegal leaking of secrets, and block the infiltration of intelligence-gathering channels by Communist China."

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