German Chancellor Angela Merkel says allegations that a
German man had worked as a double agent for US intelligence are
serious and, if true, are a clear contradiction of what
co-operation between partners is supposed to be about.
The case risks further straining ties with Washington, which
have been sorely tested by revelations last year of
large-scale snooping on Germany by the U.S. National Security
"If the reports are correct it would be a serious case,"
Merkel told a news conference in Beijing, standing next to
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
"If the allegations are true, it would be for me a clear
contradiction as to what I consider to be trusting
cooperation between agencies and partners."
The White House and State Department have so far declined to
comment on the arrest of a 31-year-old employee of Germany's
BND foreign intelligence agency. The U.S. embassy in Berlin
said it was aware of the allegations and was "working with
the German government to ensure this issue is resolved
According to intelligence and political sources, the man
admits passing documents to a U.S. contact.
Those include information about a parliamentary committee
looking into allegations by former U.S. intelligence
contractor Edward Snowden that Washington carried out major
surveillance in Germany, including monitoring Merkel's phone.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was on a
trip to Mongolia while Merkel was in China, said the spying
case would have consequences if the circumstances are
"We haven't finished clearing this up yet. But if suspicions
are confirmed that American secret services were involved, it
will become a political issue and we can't just get back to
business as usual," he told reporters in Ulan Bator.
Surveillance is a sensitive issue in a country where memories
of the Nazi's Gestapo secret police and communist East
Germany's Stasi ensure the right to privacy is treasured.
Speaking in Berlin, Snowden's lawyer in Germany, Wolfgang
Kaleck, said he hoped the latest allegations might eventually
help change Germany's stance towards his client, noting that
European states had profited from his information but were
not prepared to protect him.
As Merkel visited China, where she oversaw the signing of
agreements involving Airbus Group NV's helicopter division
selling 100 aircraft to Chinese companies, a German
intelligence chief warned that some firms in China faced a
growing threat from industrial espionage by Chinese
government agencies with huge resources.
"Germany is against that - regardless of where it comes
from," Merkel said, in reference to industrial espionage.
"We have a duty as the state to protect our economy ... We
are for the protection of intellectual property."
China's premier repeated his government's denial that it was
involved in such activities.
"China and Germany, it can be said, are both victims of
hacking attacks. The Chinese government resolutely opposes
hacking attacks as well as the use of the internet to steal
commercial secrets or intellectual property," Li said.
"China will engage in dialogue and consultation to protect
the security of the Internet." (Additional reporting by Megha
Rajagopalan in Beijing and Stephen Brown in Berlin; Writing
by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Gareth Jones)