The Ministry of National Defense on Saturday issued a detailed news release to debunk a string of conspiracy theories surrounding the launch of a missile on Friday last week, that resulted in the death of a Taiwanese fisherman and three injuries.
The release started by asking how a noncommissioned officer could be allowed to “do it alone” without receiving the consent of his superiors.
The ministry said the warship’s commander, senior arms officer and missile launch control sergeant had all failed to follow standard operating procedure before the sailor chose the wrong operation mode, committing a series of disciplinable mistakes that resulted in the historic fiasco.
The ministry said it had learned a tough lesson from the mishap, adding that from next week, it would enforce stricter training programs for all military units, particularly in the area of standard operating procedures, to prevent a similar incident from occurring.
Regarding whether it was appropriate for the armed forces to conduct a live-fire training exercise while President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was on a foreign visit, the ministry said the corvette was not participating in a “military drill,” but rather a “test of training results.”
As to why sailors on the vessel did not initiate the Hsiung Feng III missile’s “self-destruct” system, the ministry said the mechanism is only installed in missiles during formal military exercises and, as the crew was not participating in such an exercise, that option was unavailable.
In response to rumors that Petty Officer, Second Class Kao Chia-chun (高嘉駿) “exulted” after launching the missile, the statement said: “No, our investigation found that to be untrue.”
Another rumor was that Kao showed no remorse over his actions and posted some remarks on Facebook and played games after the incident.
The ministry said Kao’s mobile phone was immediately confiscated and examined, and no evidence was found to support such speculation.
“The rumor is false,” it added.
Regarding why the navy did not send any ships or aircraft to the scene after the incident, with only Coast Guard Administration vessels seen on site, the ministry said the navy dispatched two corvettes, four speedboats and two helicopters to search for the missile and immediately contacted the coast guard for assistance in recovery efforts.
The ministry also rejected reports that an ammunition ship was preparing to enter the harbor when the missile was mistakenly launched.
The missile was designed to attack military vessels, and as the structure of fishing boats tends to be lighter and weaker, the impact lacked the strength to detonate the warhead, the ministry said in response to why the missile did not explode.
In response to an allegation by Lu Li-shih (呂禮詩) — the former commander of a Chinchiang-class corvette, the same type of warship involved in the incident — that the launch occurred because control procedures for the missile’s launch key were not properly followed, the ministry said the Hsiung Feng III does not have a launch key, and therefore no control procedures were needed.
The ministry said it deeply regretted Lu’s “mistaken” and “misleading” comments about the case.