Germany will investigate reports that former Bundeswehr pilots trained their Chinese counterparts, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said on Friday.
Speaking in Singapore, Pistorius said that each individual case “must be investigated” and that “all offenses will be punished.”
His comments followed a joint report by the The mirror magazine and public broadcaster ZDF that former German fighter pilots are training Chinese pilots.
Hired ‘for years’ as trainers
Media outlets have described how at least some German Luftwaffe officers have worked as trainers in China for years.
Usually their payments are made through Seychelles shell companies.
The report said one of the pilots worked for the company of an exposed Chinese spy.
The mirror said security officials believed it was likely that the pilots had revealed top-secret military skills and even Bundeswehr and NATO deployment tactics.
The threat to Taiwan is raising concerns
They may even be practicing attack scenarios that would be helpful in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, the magazine said.
Media outlets said one pilot denied the allegations, while others could not be reached.
Pistorius said that while soldiers are allowed to do other activities after leaving the Bundeswehr, these activities must be within the law and their military obligations.
“There are clear rules in the Soldiers Act about what a soldier can and cannot do after their time of service and what they have to report. There are also clear rules about confidentiality obligations and more,” added the minister.
The chairman of the defense committee of the German parliament, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, spoke The mirror that “It is time for this nonsense and German nonsense to end.”
“The fact that we are indirectly helping China to upgrade its own air force is unacceptable,” he added.
Strack-Zimmermann said the soldiers should be limited in the training they can offer to NATO countries and strategic partners.
Scholz sought to balance relations with China
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government has sought to balance strong trade relations with the recognition that China is increasingly a competitor and a threat.
His three-party coalition has promised to come up with a “comprehensive China strategy,” though it’s unclear when it will be ready.
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mm/sri (AP, dpa)