US defence analyst admits spying

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A US Defence Department analyst has pleaded guilty to delivering classified information about US and Taiwanese military relations to a New Orleans furniture salesman who turned out to be working with the Chinese government.

Gregg Bergersen, 51, a weapons analyst who held top secret security clearances, was arrested last month. Prosecutors alleged he divulged secrets to Louisiana businessman Tai Kuo, who turned them over to a Chinese agent.

Bergersen pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiring to communicate national defence information to a person not entitled to receive it. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

An FBI affidavit filed last month spelled out detailed evidence against Mr Kuo, including taped conversations in which Bergersen acknowledged to Mr Kuo that he could go to jail for his actions.

Mr Kuo and a third defendant, Chinese national Yu Xin Kang, 33, face more serious charges that carry a possible life sentence.

Bergersen thought that Mr Kuo was aligned with the Taiwan Ministry of Defence, according to a statement of facts. Bergersen was unaware, though, that Mr Kuo maintained regular contact with a foreign official from Beijing.

Bergersen admitted that he received about $7,000 (£3,500) in cash and gifts from Mr Kuo in the last year, including $3,000 (£1,500) in cash for a poker game on a Las Vegas trip he took with Mr Kuo last April.

Bergersen's lawyer, Mark Cummings, said during today's hearing that there was no explicit exchange of money for information. "In hindsight, he understands that the money was given to him in anticipation that he would provide documents," Mr Cummings said.

The plea bargain requires Bergersen to testify against the other defendants.

Mr Kuo, 58, is a naturalised US citizen and a native of Taiwan. He is the son-in-law of Xue Yue, a Chinese nationalist general who was a close associate of Chiang Kai-shek.

Prosecutors allege that Kang, 33, served as the go-between for Kuo and the People's Republic of China.

Some of the weapons information related to Taiwan's new Po Sheng air defence system. Bergersen also admitted giving Kuo projections of US weapons sales to Taiwan.

Taiwanese military officials have said the disclosures did not compromise key technology.

China said accusations of espionage were groundless and "Cold War thinking".