Army searches coast near Pingtung

The China Post staff

The ROC Army conducted a thorough search near the coast off Pingtung in southern Taiwan for unexploded missile warheads fired in a military exercise after two fishermen were severely injured by a warhead they found on Thursday. A group of army officers, soldiers and fishermen aboard fishing boats conducted a search offshore near Fangshan, Pingtung County, where two fishermen were injured after a warhead they found exploded. The armed forces on Friday substantiated that the area where the accident occurred was the target area for the RT2000 Artillery Multiple Launch Rocket System, which was tested in Hankuang No.17 military exercise on April 20. The armed forces also confirmed that the warhead which injured the fishermen belonged to a missile fired by the RT2000 system in the exercise. However the troops and fishermen yesterday found a large number of dead fish in the area rather than the unexploded warheads fired by the RT2000 system, though they were unsure whether the fish were killed in the large-scale exercise. Simultaneously, some 400 other troops marched 23 kilometers along the coast near Fangshan in an attempt to find unexploded ammunition that might have been shot into the area. The troops showed local residents pictures of the warheads to avoid more accidents, though they found no unexploded warheads in the area. Army officers urged residents to report to them if they found an unexploded warhead offshore or onshore. The officers on Thursday had visited the two severely injured fishermen, receiving medical treatment in a local hospital.

The newly-designed RT2000 system fired a total of 27 missiles on April 20. A RT2000 missile contains more than 300 warheads, according to the military-run Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, where the RT2000 Artillery Multiple Launch Rocket System was designed. The system, which can fire 27 rockets in 52 seconds, is capable of destroying targets up to 45 kilometers away. Colonel Chang Shih-ting with the institute, who is in charge of the design of the powerful rocket launching system, told reporters earlier this month that the RT2000 system was developed to stop amphibious attacks with its lethal firepower. Chang said the RT2000 is a low-cost and high-mobility system, which is capable of firing rockets that carry high-explosive warheads.