Taipei, Taiwan, Oct 1 – Three 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 about 75 kilometres (45 miles) before hitting a trawler on July 1, 2016 in waters off Penghu, a Taiwanese-administered island group in the Taiwan Strait.
It killed the boat’s skipper and injured three crew members.
The accident came at a time of worsening relations between Taipei and Beijing. China insists self-ruling Taiwan is part of its territory even though the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war.
Kao Chia-chun, a Petty Officer Second Class who accidentally fired the missile, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, the court said in a statement.
His supervisors — Chief Petty Officer Chen Ming-hsiu and Lieutenant Junior Grade Hsu Po-wei — received two years and 14 months’ imprisonment respectively.
“The defendants’ neglect of their duties led to the death of the victim and the waste of an expensive missile, causing the country huge compensation and losses,” the statement 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 mode” to “training mode” before leaving the war room, it added. This enabled Kao to operate alone and fire the missile.
It was not immediately clear if the officers would appeal.
The incident prompted the government to improve defence training and guidelines. Defence authorities admitted the misfire endangered ties with China and “upset the morale and honour of the military”.
The family of the dead man received compensation of Tw$34.84 million ($1.16 million) from the government.