Taiwan fatal missile launch

Procedural violations led to error

A fisherman injured by the misfired navy missile receiving a visit from Taiwanese Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan (second from left) at a hospital in Kaohsiung at the weekend. Mr Feng apologised for the incident and promised to tighten discipline and
A fisherman injured by the misfired navy missile receiving a visit from Taiwanese Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan (second from left) at a hospital in Kaohsiung at the weekend. Mr Feng apologised for the incident and promised to tighten discipline and boost troop training to avoid such accidents.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Report says weapons control panel mistakenly put on 'war mode', operator sleep-deprived

TAIPEI • A Taiwan Defence Ministry investigation found yesterday that several missteps and procedural violations had led to the navy's fatal missile launch last Friday, determining that the incident was not intended to provoke China.

President Tsai Ing-wen yesterday pledged to reform the island's military culture and better integrate it with the rest of society, according to the Central News Agency (CNA).

"I will not dodge the problems or responsibilities. The military needs reforms, and they should be drastic and decisive reforms," Ms Tsai said while addressing graduates of military schools in Kaohsiung.

She said the reforms will be aimed at stamping out inefficiencies so that officers and soldiers who do their jobs properly will be less frustrated, the CNA reported.

Her comments came as the ministry's report revealed that mistakes aboard the Jin-Jiang class patrol craft included putting a weapons control panel on "war mode" rather than a training setting.

The weapons operator was left unsupervised when he fired the anti-ship missile which struck a Taiwanese fishing boat and killed one person, according to the report submitted yesterday to a parliamentary committee.

The Kaohsiung District Prosecutors' Office also said Kao Chia-chun, the second-class petty officer reportedly responsible for the incident, was sleep-deprived, the Taipei Times reported.

He allegedly had a sleepless night due to stress prior to an equipment inspection and test last Friday, according to the newspaper. "The incident was caused by a series of discipline violations and mistakes," said the report. "It wasn't just one individual operating mistake."

The launch came as the Communist Party was celebrating its 95th anniversary on mainland China, which remains a military rival with the self-ruled island.

The incident represents an early test for Ms Tsai, whose refusal to accept Beijing's bottom line for continued negotiations has seen formal communication channels severed since her inauguration in May.

In a speech last Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a warning to Taiwan while reaffirming his commitment to peaceful reunification between the former civil war foes, Bloomberg reported. "We resolutely oppose separatist forces of 'Taiwan independence'," Mr Xi said. "The entire Chinese nation - 1.3 billion Chinese people - will not allow any activity in any form at any time to split the country."

The Chinese government's top negotiator for Taiwanese affairs, Mr Zhang Zhijun, last Friday called the launch a serious matter and demanded a "responsible explanation", according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Taiwanese Vice-Admiral Mei Chia-shu had earlier described the incident as an isolated case caused by human error.

The Taiwan report said the firing has "no impact" on regional security. The island's defence forces have observed "no abnormal" military activity in the Taiwan Strait.

In a separate report to lawmakers, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council described China's response as "low key" and "self-restrained".

The Hsiung Feng III missile penetrated the fishing boat but did not explode. It killed the Taiwanese captain and injured three crew members, including Philippine and Vietnamese nationals, Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The projectile never crossed the median line between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland, it added.

Ms Tsai expressed her condolences to the family of the captain and apologised to those injured, the Foreign Ministry said. "The government takes full responsibility, and all related agencies will assist the families in seeking compensation," it quoted her as saying.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2016, with the headline 'Procedural violations led to error'. Print Edition | Subscribe