The man who helped prevent a nuclear crisis

Published:Thursday, 18 May 2017 09:05

The man who helped prevent a nuclear crisis

To this day, critics consider Chang Hsien-yi a traitor – but he has no regrets.

“If I can ever do it all over again, I will do it,” says the calmly defiant 73-year-old, speaking from his home in the US state of Idaho.

The former military colonel has been living there since 1988 when he fled to the US, a close ally of the island, and this is his first substantial interview about that time.

It might seem a perplexing turn of events given the close relationship the US has with Taiwan, but Washington had found out that Taiwan’s government had secretly ordered scientists to develop nuclear weapons.

Taiwan’s enemy, the Communist government of China, had been building up its nuclear arsenal since the 1960s, and the Taiwanese were terrified this would be unleashed on the island.

Taiwan separated from China after the Chinese Civil War in 1949. To this day China considers Taiwan a breakaway province and has vowed to reunify with the island, by force if necessary.

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The leadership of the island was also in an uncertain phase – its president, Chiang Ching-kuo, was dying, and the US thought that General Hau Pei-tsun, whom they saw as a hawkish figure, would become his successor.