Caixin
Dec 28, 2016 07:02 PM
SOCIETY & CULTURE

PLA Warns About Spying After Photos of Carrier Published by Japanese News Service

(Beijing) — A newspaper affiliated with the Chinese military has warned about a possible act of espionage after high-definition photos of the first aircraft carrier made in the country were published by a Japanese news outlet.

In a commentary published on Wednesday, China Defense News, a newspaper published by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), said that structural details of the hull and the positions of built-in weapons such as cannons were clearly visible in the photographs, which Kyodo News published on Dec. 10.

Kyodo didn’t say how it obtained the photos, which have since gone viral online in China. The Japanese news service said the Chinese aircraft carrier is expected to be launched in early 2017, citing unnamed military experts.

The photos have also compared the vessel under construction with China’s only operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning — a refurbished Soviet-era vessel purchased from Ukraine and put into service in 2012.

The photographs, apparently shot with a high-definition camera from a distance, offer a clear view of the new carrier from the outside, but are unlikely to compromise China's national defense, said Song Zhongping, a military commentator with Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television.

This is not the first information leak linked to the vessel. In October 2015, the British military journal IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly published satellite images of the aircraft carrier being built at a location near the northeastern port of Dalian.

China’s aircraft carrier program is a state secret. Developers have taken steps to keep information about the key components of the vessel, such as its radar system, under wraps, Song said.

“What China should really be alert about is Japan’s possible use of hacking to steal China's military secrets or resorting to bribing Chinese nationals to obtain classified information,” Song said.

Last week, a court in Sanya in the southern island of Hainan said it had sentenced a 24-year-old man to five years in prison for spying. The man had received an undisclosed sum from an unidentified foreign spy agency to take photographs of warships at Chinese ports, The Paper reported Friday, citing the Sanya Intermediate People’s Court.

Japan has been rattled by China’s rapid military buildup in recent years. A dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, a cluster of five uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, has further strained Sino-Japanese ties.

China Defense News said that emerging technologies such as big data, cloud computing and drones pose a threat to national security.

Authorities need to strengthen oversight and awareness among the intelligence community and even recruit amateur defense enthusiasts to defend national security, according to the opinion column on the PLA-affiliated paper.

Contact reporter Li Rongde (rongdeli@caixin.com)

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