U.S. mistakenly ships missile parts to Taiwan

Officials say the shipment of non-nuclear electrical fuses was a Department of Defense process error and that the components have since been returned.
By Ben DuBose, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
10:03 AM PDT, March 25, 2008
WASHINGTON — U.S. officials said today that non-nuclear parts for an intercontinental ballistic missile were mistakenly shipped to Taiwan in 2006 and that an investigation had been started.

Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said at a Pentagon news conference that the items sent to Taiwan were four electrical fuses for nose cone assemblies for ICBMs. Wynne said the fuses have been returned and are at a U.S. base.

“It could not be construed as being nuclear material,” Wynne said. “It is a component for the fuse in the nose cone for a nuclear system. We are all taking this very seriously.”

The government of China views Taiwan as a part of China and strongly opposes U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, making the matter particularly sensitive.

According to Wynne, the fuses were shipped between Air Force bases in 2005 before they were mistakenly sent to Taiwan the following year.

Officials in Taiwan notified the U.S. government of the error.

“Preliminary information indicates that a shipment took place in response to a Foreign Military Sales Order from Taiwan for helicopter batteries,” Wynne said. “The Defense Logistics Agency mistakenly shipped these items instead of the requested batteries.”

Ryan Henry, the second-ranking policy official in the office of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, said both Gates and President Bush were told about the incident on Friday.

At the news conference, Wynne reiterated that the incident was merely a process error and was not indicative of a shift in policy.

“In an organization as large as the DOD, the largest and most complex in the world, there will be mistakes,” he said. “But they cannot be tolerated in the arena of strategic systems, whether they are nuclear or only associated equipment. Our policy on Taiwan arms sales has not changed.”