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International blunder as Swiss firm gives Taiwanese missile components to China

International blunder as Swiss firm gives Taiwanese missile components to China

A Swiss company has alarmed Taiwanese citizens by sending devices used to operate Taiwan’s anti-ship missiles to China for repairs. China has recently stepped up hostilities towards Taiwan under the leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping, despite the two countries having a tacit ceasefire since 1979. 

Swiss firm Leica Geosystems shipped Taiwanese devices to China

While the missiles themselves were designed by Taiwan’s National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, some of the specialised components used to operate the weapons are designed by companies abroad. Taiwan purchased some of these components, specifically theodolites (instruments that are used to measure angles both horizontally and vertically to help guide the missiles correctly) from a company based in Switzerland. 

Taiwan sent an unspecified number of these theodolites to the head office of Leica Geosystems in St. Gallen for repairs. However, when the components were returned to Taiwan, it became clear that the device was shipped from Shandong province in China - not Switzerland. According to Taiwanese media, the repair process in China could have given the People’s Republic access to sensitive data from missile tests, which could put Taiwan’s national security at risk. 

Taiwan has asked for Lecia Geosystems to be more careful

The incident caused alarm amongst Taiwanese netizens in the days after the news broke. Many citizens turned to social media to vent their concerns, mainly surrounding the possibility of China accessing secret information or damaging technology. 

Thankfully, Taiwan’s top military research body - National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology - said that they do not believe any data breach has occurred. Tests by the military also found that the technology was not damaged. 

Despite this, Taiwan has asked Lecia Geosystems to change its procedure for repairs in the future. The National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology has also stated that it is considering implementing new measures to make sure that sensitive equipment is not sent to China, for national security reasons. 

Tensions between Taiwan and China are intensifying

The blunder comes against a backdrop of intensifying tensions between China and Taiwan. China claims Taiwan is a rogue province and should be brought back under communist control, while Taiwan maintains that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which took control of China in 1949, is not a legitimate government. Taiwan is a self-governing democracy with its own laws, military, currency and passports. 

In recent months, Chinese President Xi Jinping has voiced his intentions to retake Taiwan, using force if necessary. According to The Guardian, China sent 1.727 planes, nuclear-capable bombers and drones into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) in 2022. The Taiwanese military is widely understood to be tacitly supported by the United States, Japan, Australia and other Western nations. 

Image: Shutterstock.com / Chen Liang-Dao

Emily Proctor

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Emily Proctor

Emily studied International Relations and Chinese, and is now undertaking Master's degree in International Security. She enjoys writing, cooking, and playing piano.

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