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MND rules out spy exchange deal involving former general

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan will not free a Taiwanese general convicted of spying for China in exchange for Taiwanese spies currently jailed in Chinese prisons, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said yesterday.

The Chinese-language China Times reported Monday that intelligence officials from Taipei and Beijing recently held secret talks in a third country on an exchange of seized spies.

But the talks broke down because China asked Taiwan to release Lo Hsien-che (羅賢哲), a former Army major general who was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted on espionage charges, the report said.

Asked to comment, military spokesman Luo Shou-he (羅紹和) yesterday said the Taiwan government will never release Lo in exchange for other imprisoned Taiwanese intelligence officers currently jailed in China.

“Lo was involved in serious violations of national security,” Luo said.

The military will continue to do its best to rescue Taiwanese intelligence personnel imprisoned in Beijing, he added.

Luo's comment coincided with a remark made by Justice Minister Lo Ying-hsueh (羅瑩雪) on Monday pledging that the government has no intention of allowing Lo Hsien-che to be freed as part of any exchange of spies.

The 54-year-old Lo, who used to work at Army Command Headquarters, was arrested in January 2011 on charges of spying for China. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in July the same year.

It was reportedly that Lo was recruited as a Chinese spy when he was stationed in Thailand in 2004.

For each batch of confidential information he leaked to China, Lo reportedly received between US$100,000 and US$200,000.

Lo is believed to be the highest-ranking Taiwanese military officer to have been nabbed on espionage charges in nearly five decades.

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