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China’s Poaching of US, NATO Soldiers Prompts 23-Nation Meeting

China’s successful campaign to recruit current and former soldiers from the US and NATO has prompted nearly two dozen countries to gather for a meeting to discuss the issue.

A top US military official in Europe admitted recently that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has made progress in poaching alliance-trained pilots, maintainers, air operations personnel, and technical experts.

Some of them were reportedly hired through government-backed private companies using seemingly typical online job listings or through headhunting emails sent directly to targeted individuals.

According to US officials, the common red flags in these job listings are the location, which often states “in or around China,” contract details that seem too good to be true, and the vague nature of the work.

Tackling the Problem

The conference, conducted at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, was attended by American defense officials, representatives from 22 NATO member states, and “Five Eye” partners.

It was reportedly the first such event to include broad NATO participation, signaling the “heightened level of importance this issue has taken on the international stage.”

During the meeting, it was pointed out that China’s recruitment of foreign soldiers that could provide insight into US and NATO air tactics, techniques, and procedures poses a serious risk to sensitive national defense information.

They also discussed best practices to combat the issue, though no specific details were disclosed to the public.

Bringing Them Back

Gen. James Hecker, the commander of US Air Forces in Europe, told Breaking Defense that they were able to bring some PLA-recruited pilots back after finding out about the problem “fairly early on.”

Some nations even had to make changes to their laws to get some of those servicemembers back, he said.

Hecker assured that the US and NATO are now conducting a public awareness campaign to stop China’s recruitment efforts.

“So we continue to pound the drum to make sure that everybody that’s retired in the military, and particularly pilots, that they’re aware that this effort is ongoing, and that it’s unacceptable,” he told the outlet.

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