Speaking of institutions and accidents, the New York Times reported that the Pentagon accidentally shipped four electrical fuses meant for ICBMs to Taiwan in 2006 instead of the helicopter batteries that they ordered. This is viewed by Washington officials as disturbing for several different reasons. First, the fuses are not really viewed as nuclear material, but they are a component part used for a Minutemen strategic nuclear missile. The Taiwanese did notify the US of the mistake but it is not clear when. An investigation of the site where the delivery was stored indicates that the they had not been "tampered with." Second, the US does not want to ruffle China's feathers. The US's shipment of arms to Taiwan is a sensitive subject because the Chinese resent this support.
Although the shipment to Taiwain does represent a mistake on part of the US government--never a good thing-- there is not much reason to worry. A defense department official noted that the technology is "quite dated" from the 1960's. Also, China--though reminded of our support to Taiwan--will ultimately recognize this as a mistake. It will be interesting to see what happens.