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Germany’s defense minister said Friday his country will look into a report that former German air force fighter plane pilots have been training pilots for the Chinese military.
News magazine Der Spiegel and public broadcaster ZDF reported Friday that “at least a handful” of former German air force officers are working as trainers in China, and that in several cases they were apparently paid through companies in the Seychelles. They said that such training has been going on for years, that several pilots didn’t respond to requests for comment or were unreachable, and that one rejected the allegations.
Asked about the report during a visit to Singapore, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that there are clear rules on what servicepeople are allowed to do after they leave the armed forces and what activities they have to notify about, and that there also are clear rules on confidentiality requirements.
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German Minister of Defense Boris Pistorius talks to media on May 23, 2023, in Brussels, Belgium. Pistorius said Germany will review reports alleging its former fighter pilots have been training Chinese military pilots. (Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)
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“Every individual case must be examined,” he said. “We will do that thoroughly and all transgressions will be punished, that is completely clear, though it is clear that servicepeople can take on other jobs after their service ends, but within the bounds of our laws and within the bounds of their obligations.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government has sought to balance strong trade ties with a recognition that China is increasingly a competitor and “systemic rival,” as well as a partner on issues such as climate change. His three-party coalition has pledged to draw up a “comprehensive China strategy,” though it’s not yet clear when that will be ready.