Fatal missile misfire: Taiwan navy men jailed

The Hsiung-feng III (Brave Wind) supersonic missile during a 2007 parade in Taipei. One such missile that was accidentally fired last year led to the death of a trawler's captain.
The Hsiung-feng III (Brave Wind) supersonic missile during a 2007 parade in Taipei. One such missile that was accidentally fired last year led to the death of a trawler's captain.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TAIPEI • Three Taiwanese naval personnel have been jailed for up to two years for mistakenly launching a missile towards China that killed one person and triggered a stern response from Beijing last year.

They were convicted of causing death by negligence while on duty over the misfiring of the Hsiung-feng III (Brave Wind) supersonic missile, the district court in the southern city of Kaohsiung announced over the weekend.

The missile, dubbed "Aircraft Carrier Killer", flew some 75km before hitting a trawler on July 1 last year in waters off Penghu, a Taiwanese-administered island group in the Taiwan Strait. It killed the boat's skipper and hurt three crew members.

The accident came at a time of worsening relations between Taipei and Beijing. China maintains that self-ruling Taiwan is part of its territory. The two sides split in 1949 after a civil war.

Petty Officer Second Class Kao Chia-chun, who accidentally fired the missile, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, the court said.

His supervisors, Chief Petty Officer Chen Ming-hsiu and Lieutenant Junior Grade Hsu Po-wei, received two years' jail and 14 months' jail, respectively. It was not immediately clear if the officers would appeal.

"The defendants' neglect of their duties led to the death of the victim and the waste of an expensive missile", causing the island huge compensation costs and losses, the court said.

Chen received the heaviest sentence as he forgot to remove the fuse safety connector from the missile and failed to change the missile from combat to training mode before leaving the war room. This enabled Kao to operate alone and fire the missile.

The incident prompted the government to improve defence training and guidelines. The family of the boat skipper who died received compensation of NT$34.84 million (S$1.6 million) from the government.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2017, with the headline 'Fatal missile misfire: Taiwan navy men jailed'. Print Edition | Subscribe