A Taiwanese navy patrol boat accidentally launched a supersonic anti-ship missile on Friday, killing a local fisherman, the military said.
The Hsiung Feng III missile struck waters off the Penghu Islands, in the Taiwan Strait, around 8:40am (0040 GMT), hitting a Taiwanese fishing boat operating nearby, according to the Ministry of National Defence.
The captain, surnamed Huang, was killed and three other fishermen were injured in the accident, National Defence spokesman Major-General Chen Chung-chi said in a news conference broadcast live nationwide.
“We’re very sorry about that. We will do our best to compensate them,” Chen said.
Chen said that the three fishermen left a hospital in southern Taiwan after receiving treatment.
A preliminary investigation showed that missile operators probably failed to follow proper procedures, the official Central News Agency said.
A full investigation was under way, while the navy sent a helicopter and boats to search for the missile, the report said.
|Can Taiwan’s president maintain stable China relations?|
“We’ve found that the crew did not follow standard operating procedure,” said the navy command headquarters Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral Mei Chia-shu.
The 500-tonne patrol boat, called Chinchiang, was undergoing a drill inspection at Zuoying military base in southern Kaohsiung City when the missile was launched by mistake, Mei said.
The missile travelled for more than two minutes before falling into the waters, about 40 nautical miles [75km] northwest of the military harbour, Mei said.
“It did not cross the middle line of the Taiwan Strait,” Mei said.
Both Beijing and Taipei respect the virtual middle line in the Taiwan Strait, and the two sides do not cross the line with their respective warplanes or ships. The narrowest part of the strait is 130km wide.
The firing coincided with Beijing’s celebrations of the 95th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Communist Party.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, also the party’s top leader, delivered a speech on Friday calling for the peaceful development of relations between Beijing and Taipei.
Tensions across the strait have escalated since Tsai Ing-wen of a pro-independence party was elected president earlier this year.
Tsai has refused to endorse the concept of a single Chinese nation, and Beijing cut off contact with Taiwan’s liaison office when she was inaugurated in May.
Beijing sees Taiwan as a renegade province after a civil war, although the island has functioned as an independent country and does not acknowledge Beijing’s claim of authority over it.