Taiwan says did not dismantle US missile parts

Taiwan's defence minister on Thursday said the island did not dismantle and examine nuclear missile parts mistakenly shipped by the United States, in an incident which has angered China and embarrassed Washington.

Taiwan says did not dismantle US missile parts
The U.S. military was supposed to ship helicopter batteries to Taiwan, but instead sent fuses used as part of the trigger mechanism on Minuteman missiles, the Pentagon said on Tuesday. Taiwan returned the parts to the U.S. last week.

No nuclear material was shipped to Taiwan, Pentagon officials said.

Taiwan's Defence Minister Tsai Ming-hsien was asked in parliament by Nationalist Party legislator Lin Yu-fang whether the parts had been inspected by the Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, a weapon's development body in Taiwan.

"As far as I know, no," Tsai said.

Lin wondered if that was not a little like looking a gift horse in the mouth. Taiwan has developed a range of weapons on its own, often with U.S. help, because many countries will not sell the island weapons due to Chinese pressure.

"Sometimes you can't have gifts from heaven," the minister replied.

The incident has angered China, which views self-ruled Taiwan as its own, and Beijing has called for a thorough investigation, as well as an end to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

The U.S. has not had diplomatic relations with Taipei since 1979 but is bound by law to help Taiwan defend itself.

The erroneous fuse shipment was the Pentagon's second embarrassing misplacement of nuclear or nuclear-related equipment announced in recent months. An Air Force bomber mistakenly carried nuclear warheads over the United States in August 2007.

It was unclear what led to the fuse shipment, and the Pentagon said it does not yet know who was responsible.

The fuses, which send an electronic signal to the device that starts the nuclear weapon's trigger process, are among a class of sensitive equipment that must be accounted for on a quarterly basis.

Based on the information now known, the four fuses, which do not resemble helicopter batteries, were wrongly placed in an unclassified storage area. They were then shipped in late 2006 to Taiwan, which placed them in storage.


Agencies
Last Mod: 27 Mart 2008, 14:42
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