Former Taiwan military chief details nuke weapon program.
In a tell-all personal account of Taiwan's abortive attempt to develop nuclear weapons, a former chief of staff revealed Wednesday that Taiwan had indeed constructed a small nuclear device, but the program was canceled after the United States became aware of it.
The book, titled "Eight Years as the Chief of General Staff," is a compilation of excerpts from Hau Pei-tsun's diary during his tenure between 1981 and 1989. It is the first time a military official has admitted to the island's secret nuclear weapons program during the 1980s, according to the United Daily News.
The account begins in January 1988, shortly after leading Taiwan nuclear researcher Chang Hsien-yi had fled to the U.S. and passed on to the Central Intelligence Agency details of the secret nuclear program.
According to Hau, Chang's revelations did not come as a surprise to the U.S. government, which had already taken satellite photos of the Taiwan Research Reactor at Camp Chiupeng in the south of Taiwan, where the weapons program was based.
Shortly after Chang fled to the U.S., then President Ronald Reagan summoned Washington's chief unofficial emissary to Taiwan, David Dean, and instructed him to tell Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui to sign a guarantee to halt the research.
Hau's diary indicates that by this time scientists from the Chungshan Institute of Technology in charge of the program had already achieved a controlled nuclear reaction, the last step before constructing a bomb.
With a crisis looming, the Taiwan government decided to appease the U.S., with whom it had shared an unofficial relationship since 1979, and halted the program.
But Hau suggests in his Feb. 13 entry that "unofficial research" could possibly have continued despite Lee's signing of the memorandum. Hau also served as minister of defense from 1989-1990, as premier from 1990-1993 and then as running mate for Lin Yang-kang in his failed 1996 independent presidential bid. National Defense Minister Tang Fei assured reporters Wednesday the government currently has no nuclear weapons program and that he had no knowledge of the program Hau describes in his book.