Officer receives reduced sentence in accidental missile launch appeal

Kaohsiung, The Kaohsiung branch of the Taiwan High Court on Thursday upheld the sentences handed down by a lower court on two naval officers for the accidental launch of a missile in 2016, while reducing the sentence on a third officer linked to the case.

According to the ruling by the Kaohsiung branch of the high court, Lieutenant Junior Grade Hsu Po-wei (???) received a sentence of 14 months, and Petty Officer Second Class Kao Chia-chun (???) 18 months.

The sentences were unchanged from the first trial ruling issued by the Kaohsiung District Court on Sept. 30, 2017. However, the sentence for Chief Petty Officer Chen Ming-hsiu (???) was reduced from 24 months to 21 months.

The three men were convicted of negligence resulting in the accidental firing of a missile that killed a fishing boat captain and injured three others on July 1, 2016.

That day, the locally developed Hsiung Feng III missile was accidentally fired by Kao, from a Chinchiang-class corvette docked in Zuoying naval base in Kaohsiung, as part of a simulated test.

The missile flew northwest and hit the fishing ship Hsiang Li Sheng which was about 40 nautical miles (74km) from Penghu, killing its skipper Huang Wen-chung (???) and injuring three anothers, including Huang's son.

To start the test, Chen first requested Hsu provide four "fuse" safety connectors instead of two, to simulate a missile launch, the court said.

However, Hsu failed to notice that only two safety connectors were needed for the test and only two of the Hsiung Feng III missiles on the corvette were installed with test and training sets (TTS). Chen then ordered his subordinates to install them in four Hsiung Feng III missiles, knowing that two of the missiles were not equipped with TTS, according to the court.

Chen also failed to notice that the missile control system was set to "combat mode" instead of "training mode" after completing a missile circuit test, it said.

He then left the war room for five to seven minutes, leaving Kao alone in the room to simulate the missile launch procedure, it added.

Kao did not notice that two of the missiles were in "live-fire" mode and pressed the launch button for the missile to automatically seek out a target, as a result of which it struck the fishing boat.

The three officers were handed their respective sentences given the facts of the case as stated and for their roles in the accidental missile launch, the court said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel