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Two French ex-spies charged with treason after ‘passing intelligence to China’

Two former French intelligence agents have been charged with passing intelligence to a "foreign power", the government said Thursday, with French media reporting the country as China.

Two French ex-spies charged with treason after 'passing intelligence to China'
Photo: AFP

The two now-retired DGSE (General Directorate for External Security) agents, and the wife of one of them, are being prosecuted for “acts of extreme gravity”, the armed forces ministry said in a statement.

They were indicted on 22 December 2017 and two of them have since been held in custody, a judicial source told AFP.

DGSE is France's foreign intelligence agency, similar to Britain's MI6 or the United States's CIA.

The Quotidien television programme and the Le Monde daily reported four people are suspected of having been recruited by the Chinese authorities to spy on French foreign intelligence.

Neither the armed forces ministry nor the judicial source gave the name of the other country, and gave no details of the length of time or nature of information passed over.

One of the agents was stationed in Beijing, Quotidien reported.

The judicial source said two of the three suspects are being prosecuted for “delivering to a foreign power information that undermines the fundamental 
interests of the nation” and “compromising the secrecy of national defence”.

“One of them has also been charged for direct provocation to the crime of treason,” the source added.

The third person — believed to be the wife — has been indicted for “concealment of treasonable crimes” and placed under judicial control, meaning 
they are subject to certain constraints pending trial, according to the same source. 

The armed forces ministry said: “These acts of extreme gravity have been detected by this service, which has brought these facts to its knowledge to the Paris prosecutor.”

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CHINA

Xi arrives on French Riviera as Macron seeks united EU front on China

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Monaco on the French Riviera Sunday seeking to press ambitious commercial goals ahead of talks with France's Emmanuel Macron who is trying to forge a united European front to contend with Beijing's advances.

Xi arrives on French Riviera as Macron seeks united EU front on China
Chinese President Xi Jinping, his wife Peng Liyuan, Princess Charlene of Monaco and Prince Albert II of Monaco, stand in front of troops at the Monaco Palace. Photo: AFP

Xi arrived at the airport of the resort city of Nice accompanied by his wife Peng Liyuan to be welcomed by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and an guard of honour.

Prior to meeting with Macron, Xi went to the nearby principality of Monaco, where he was received by Prince Albert II and where a government spokesman said bilateral talks would “address economic and environmental issues”.

Xi, who has made establishing China as a global player central to his government, travelled from Italy, whose government became the first G7 state to sign up to his landmark new “Silk Road” infrastructure project, a massive undertaking to join Asia to Europe.

Washington and some EU states fear the huge project will give China too much sway. But Xi says it would be a two-way street of investment and trade.

Germany criticised Rome over its participation in the new Silk Road project.

“In a world with giants like China, Russia or our partners in the United States, we can only survive if we are united as the EU. And if some countries believe that they can do clever business with the Chinese, then they will be surprised when they wake up and find themselves dependant,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

The EU's German budget commissioner, Günther Oettinger, told the Funke newspaper group that Europe should ensure it retains its autonomy and sovereignty when dealing with China.

He expressed concern that already “infrastructure of strategic importance … are no longer in European but in Chinese hands.”

French Finance Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had remarked Friday that “Silk
Road cooperation had to go “in both directions.”

Amid tight security, Xi and his wife were Sunday evening to join Macron and his wife for a private dinner at nearby Beaulieu-sur-Mer overlooking the Mediterranean during which they would have what a Chinese official termed “a deep exchange of views on Sino-French, Sino-European relations and international and issues of mutual interest.”

Xi's official visit to Paris on Monday will mark 55 years since Charles de Gaulle established diplomatic relations with Beijing.

A series of cooperation deals on nuclear power, aerospace and clean energy initiatives, some involving lucrative contracts, are expected to be signed.

On Tuesday, Macron and Xi will be joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to explore “points of convergence” ahead of an EU-China summit in Brussels next month.

As well as addressing commercial cooperation and strategic issues with Xi, Macron has also been urged to deal with the case of Chinese former Interpol head Meng Hongwei.

Meng's wife has had no news of her husband since his arrest in China nearly six months ago and it emerged Sunday she has written to Marcon asking him to bring up his disappearance with Xi.

He is believed to be facing corruption charges.

But Xi's visit poses a particular challenge for Macron, who wants to deepen EU ties with China while also pushing back against Beijing's growing global clout.

Europe's distrust of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, which is poised to become the dominant player in next-generation 5G mobile technology worldwide, is emblematic of the increasingly rocky relationship.

Monaco, which notably is eyeing a share of Chinese luxury tourism and has its own foreign policy, only last year signed an accord with Huawei to make the principality the first country entirely covered by the company's 5G mobile network by year end.

Macron has lauded the EU's “awakening” to the challenges posed by China, which the bloc now labels a “rival” despite being Europe's biggest trading partner.

“The reality is that the world has changed significantly — China is not the country it once was, and we are dealing with a very major partner,” a Macron aide said ahead of Xi's visit.

The US is pressuring European allies to not use the Huawei technology, saying it creates a security risk by potentially letting Beijing snoop on sensitive communications.

But France has not ruled out using Huawei gear.

Beijing has accused Washington of trying to escalate President Donald Trump's trade battle with China.

Despite the many sources of friction, France wants to engage China as a closer partner as Washington makes a pointed withdrawal from global affairs under Trump's “America First” policy.

For example, Macron may seek more Chinese support of the French-backed G5 Sahel force fighting Islamist extremists in Western Africa.

China has been investing heavily in a diplomatic offensive across Africa, promising to help build infrastructure projects as part of the new Silk Road initiative.

Aides say Macron will press Xi to ensure such projects are fair and explore the participation of French companies amid allegations the deals could load African countries with unsustainable debt. 

READ ALSO: 'This will only help China': France furious after EU derails train-merger

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