China recruiting Western military trainers: Five Eyes

The US and other "Five Eyes" countries have warned that China has been circumventing measures aimed at halting its recruitment of current and former Western military pilots and other personnel to train the Chinese military.

"Western recruits who train the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) may increase the risk of future conflict by reducing our deterrence capabilities," said a public bulletin issued by the US, Australian British, Canadian, and New Zealand intelligence services on Wednesday.

The notice is the latest warning by the English-speaking "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing alliance about rising concerns with Chinese government-directed espionage, cyber hacking and intellectual property theft as Beijing's growing might has roiled relations with Washington and its allies.

China's embassy in Washington did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The PLA is using private companies in South Africa and China to hire former fighter pilots, flight engineers and air operations centre personnel from Western countries to train its Air Force and Navy aviators, the services said in the notice.

"The PLA wants the skills and expertise of these individuals to make its own military air operations more capable while gaining insight into Western air tactics, techniques, and procedures," the notice said.

It said the efforts represented a "persistent, adaptive threat," with the insight gleaned by the PLA a threat to "US and allied security."

One official from the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC), speaking on condition of anonymity, said the governments issued the warning at this time because China "has been adapting" to countermeasures aimed at thwarting recruitment.

Western pilots have been lured into training Chinese pilots by "tons of money" and opportunities "to fly really exotic" Chinese aircraft, said a US official familiar with the matter.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, added that the Chinese military had recruited at least five former pilots from New Zealand and some 30 from Britain, as well as former pilots from Germany and other countries.