AP: Taiwan's government is investigating a report that local companies helped supply equipment to Iran that can be used to produce weapons-grade nuclear material.
The Associated Press
By PETER ENAV
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan's government is investigating a report that local companies helped supply equipment to Iran that can be used to produce weapons-grade nuclear material.
An official in the Bureau of Foreign Trade said the investigation would also examine whether there are loopholes in Taiwanese trade regulatory procedures.
His comments Friday followed a report in the London Daily Telegraph that unidentified Taiwanese companies supplied Iran's Ministry of Defense with 100 pressure transducers, which can be used in the production of weapons-grade uranium.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements to the media.
The Daily Telegraph report, which cited unspecified Western intelligence sources, said Iranian officials have held meetings with Taiwan-based companies to buy hundreds of pressure transducers, and that 100 had already been shipped to Iran.
It said the transducers were manufactured in Europe, acquired by the Taiwanese companies, and then sent to Iran in an effort to foil a growing international effort to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Pressure transducers convert pressure into analog electrical signals. They have many commercial uses, but also are a vital component in the production of weapons-grade uranium because of the need for precise measurements.
Iran is banned from buying them on the open market by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, an international body established to limit nuclear proliferation by controlling the export of materials that can be used in building atomic weapons.
The U.S. and its allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons secretly under the guise of a civilian atomic energy program, but Tehran insists its efforts are aimed only at generating electricity.
The Bureau of Foreign Trade official did not say why the investigation into the Daily Telegraph report had been launched. However, a Taipei-based foreign diplomat said it had been ordered by National Security Council chief Su Chi.
The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
Presidential Office spokesman Wang Yu-chi declined to comment on the matter, saying it was not being handled by his office. Su Chi works directly for President Ma Ying-jeou.
Despite shifting its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, the United States remains Taiwan's most important foreign partner, supplying the island with the vast majority of its imported weapons systems.
Confirmation that Taiwanese companies sold nuclear-weapons-related equipment to Iran would almost certainly provoke a strongly negative American reaction, and could undermine long-standing trust between the sides.
A spokesman for the American Institute in Taiwan — the de facto U.S. embassy on the island — declined to say whether American diplomats had approached their Taiwanese counterparts to discuss the report.
Earlier this year, a Canadian citizen of Iranian descent was arrested on charges he tried to procure and export pressure transducers to his native country.