Although a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Taiwan secretly pursued a nuclear weapons program in the 1970s and 1980s. Taiwan reportedly launched the effort after China's first nuclear test in 1964, and the island nation's fears that U.S. nuclear forces could not be relied on to deter military moves by the mainland, according to a 1998 article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
Taiwan's nuclear ambitions came to light in the late 1970s after International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors found missing quantities of plutonium at the country's Institute for Nuclear Energy Research, its military-controlled nuclear facility, and after Col. Chang Hsien-yi, a former deputy director at INER, defected to the United States in 1987 with detailed information of Taiwan's nuclear program.
Andrew Yang, a defense analyst at the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, a Taipei think tank, said that it had long been common knowledge in Taiwan that the island's nuclear scientists were working on a bomb in the 1970s and 1980s.
"I don't think they got anywhere close to building a nuclear device," Yang said. "But they did have the technology and the know-how."
Taiwan is assumed to have ended its nuclear program in the late 1980s under pressure from the IAEA and the United States. Its one heavy water reactor was shut down in 1988 after Taiwan began implementing IAEA safeguards.