Top-secret embarrassment: Stealth ship laptop missing in Taiwan

A top-secret computer from a state-of-art stealth warship has vanished, the Taiwanese military revealed on Monday. There are fears the laptop and its classified content is now in the hands of the Chinese.

The computer was installed on board a Kuang Hua No. 6 class guided missile vessel. It belonged to a private contractor and was used for testing confidential communication equipment and procedures.

Last month it disappeared, while the missile ship was stationed at the southern port of Tsoying, Taiwan’s largest naval base. An internal investigation failed to determine how it happened.

“We admit that the navy exhibited some flaws in the control of personnel at the base,” a naval spokesman told AFP.

The case has now been handed over to the military prosecutors.

Taiwan deployed a squadron on 10 Kuang Hua No. 6 ships in 2010, which was deemed a major improvement to the country’s naval capabilities. They are each armed with four locally developed Hsiungfeng II ship-to-ship missiles, with a range of 150 kilometres. They are also designed to be stealthy and reduce the risk of being detected.

The missing computer may have been stolen by Chinese spies interested in modern military technologies, experts believe.

“If China obtained the laptop, it would get the navy’s highly sensitive communications code as well as related missile data,” said Erich Shih, an editor at Taipei-based Defence International magazine.

China and Taiwan have been separate since the end of a civil war in 1949. Beijing still considers the island part of its territory waiting for reunification. Relations between the two have been improving thanks to increased trade. The thaw was championed by Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who came to power in 2008.

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