Peru says ties with Chile threatened by spying suspicions

LIMA, (Reuters) – Two Peruvian naval officers are on trial on charges that they spied for Chile, Peru’s defense minister said yesterday, chilling relations between the two Andean countries that had been improving diplomatic ties.

Military courts are trying two officers and investigating a third for allegedly spying for Chile, Defense Minister Pedro Cateriano said, without offering details.

Confirmation of the spying “would be an incident of utmost seriousness and would affect the bilateral relationship between Peru and Chile,” Cateriano said at a press conference.

“The government of President Humala has done all it can to improve our relationship with Chile,” Cateriano said.

Chile said it had not been officially notified by Peru of the spying case and that ties between the neighbors were strengthening.

Last year, a landmark international court ruling settled an old maritime border dispute between the longtime rivals, raising expectations in both countries of improved relations.

Chile is suspected of paying the men to gather information, including on the fishing industry, according to local TV program America TV, which first revealed the case on Wednesday.

Frequent trips abroad alerted military officials to the men’s activities and culminated in their arrest last year, Cateriano said.

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