TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Former Colonel Chang Hsien-yi, who revealed the existence of a secret Taiwanese plan for a nuclear bomb to the United States in 1988, should still be considered a traitor, several commentators said.
He was deputy director at the Institute of Nuclear Engineering Research (INER) which developed the bomb under the guidance of President Chiang Ching-kuo. Chang ran off to the United States and told the Central Intelligence Agency about the project, which was then aborted under pressure from Washington.
Chang, 73, said in a videoconference marking the release of a book Monday that he had fled the country because he was afraid what “ambitious politicians” might do once they gained control over a nuclear device. He reportedly named the then-chief-of-staff of the Armed Forces, later premier, Hau Bei-tsun.
However, Democratic Progressive Party legislator Lo Chih-cheng and national security expert Chang Jung-feng both said this was not a sufficient excuse for Chang to have revealed the nuclear plan to the CIA.
Chang Hsien-yi “did betray this land and this people,” Lo said, rejecting the former colonel’s arguments. At the time, Taiwan’s government was reeling under the effects of President Jimmy Carter’s announcement to switch recognition to Beijing, and President Chiang Ching-kuo made the decision to develop a domestic nuclear capability because he could not be sure that future U.S. arms sales would be forthcoming, Lo said.
Chang Jung-feng, who advised President Lee Teng-hui on national security matters, said Chang Hsien-yi’s actions contributed to Taiwan’s failure to possess a satisfactory military deterrent against China until this day. He also questioned the suggestion that the halting of Taiwan’s nuclear defense program resulted in a “double win” for both Taipei and Washington.
Being bought by another power’s intelligence service amounts to betraying your own country no matter how one looks at it, Chang Jung-feng said.
The defense expert also took issue with the attitude of some that Chang Hsien-yi’s revelations contributed to the current move toward making Taiwan a nuclear-free country, a status the government wants to achieve by 2025.
Chang Jung-feng slammed the publisher of the book about the former INER official as well as the pro-Taiwanese academics who contributed to the foreword, saying that if they thought Chang Hsien-yi was a traitor, they should not have cooperated with the publishing project.
The Chinese-language documentary book, titled “Nuclear Bomb! Spy? CIA: Record of an Interview with Chang Hsien-yi,” is based on an interview by Academia Sinica associate research fellow Chen Yi-shen conducted last year.