Alarm raised after laptop vanishes from stealth ship
The Taiwanese navy is looking for a laptop computer containing confidential data that has been missing from a guided-missile ship since May 25.
The incident has raised concerns that the data could have fallen into mainland hands.
At an abruptly held news conference in Taipei yesterday, the navy admitted that the computer installed aboard a Kuanghua No 6 class guided-missile ship was missing but insisted no sensitive military information was recorded in the computer.
'The defence ministry has formed an ad hoc committee to review who is to be held responsible for the missing laptop, and ... referred the case to a military prosecutor's office based in southern Taiwan to investigate the case,' spokesman Luo Shou-he said.
The laptop, owned by a private contractor, was installed aboard the vessel on May 3 for testing the ship's equipment. But on May 25 the ship's officers were unable to find the computer, believing that it must have been sent for maintenance to the military's Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, navy officials said.
All along the navy believed that the computer was in the safe hands, and it was not until Sunday that it finally decided to set up a committee to investigate the case, the officials said.
Luo said those responsible would be punished as soon as the cause of the missing computer was identified.
The vessel - which is equipped with four Hsiungfeng-2 missiles with a range of 150 kilometres - belongs to a fleet of ships equipped with stealth technology developed on the island in the last decade to enable swift attacks against mainland warships.
Taiwanese lawmakers were concerned that top military secrets could have been leaked to the People's Liberation Army.
'Allowing the computer to go missing is tantamount to revealing our top military secrets in broad daylight to the PLA,' said Tsai Huang-liang, an opposition Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker.
Another DPP legislator, Tsai Chi-chang, said he was not surprised that the computer was missing, given that the government of President Ma Ying-jeou 'is leaning towards China and that it has no resolve to build up Taiwan's defence against the mainland'.
However, Rear Admiral Chou Mei-wu, director of the navy's combat systems department, said the computer did not contain any weaponry data.