Wed, Jul 21, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Jet fighters land on freeway today

WAR GAMES Officials laid to rest speculation that there was any link between the military drills and the presence of Chinese and US forces in the area

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A group of workers removes barriers from the middle of the Sun Yat-sen Freeway yesterday for the landing of two Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets.

PHOTO: WU CHUN-FENG, TAIPEI TIMES

Two Mirage 2000-5 jet fighters were to land on the Sun Yat-sen Freeway at around dawn today.

"This is merely a regular annual military exercise to maintain our end goal -- peace in the Taiwan Strait. Landing the aircraft on the freeway is part of the exercise and we have tried our best not to inconvenience the public," Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major General Huang Suei-sheng (黃穗生) said at the ministry's weekly press conference yesterday morning.

The air force, army and navy will participate in the exercise. In addition to the aircraft practicing take-off and landing maneuvers on the Jenteh section of the Sun Yat-sen Freeway, the navy will carry out an exercise along the east coast, while the army will hold drills in Kao-hsiung and Pingtung counties.

The Mirages will be the main focus of the exercise, since it's the first time fighter jets will have landed on the freeway since the road was built and opened to the public 25 years ago. Before the freeway was opened, pilots practiced landing F-104s, F-100s, F-5s and T-33 training aircraft on it.

The ministry said the section of the freeway between the Jenteh and Luchu interchanges, a stretch of road of approximately 9km, will be closed from 4am to 8am today. On Monday night, workers started removing more than 1,700 concrete road dividers on the "Jenteh Runway," which is 2.7km long. The entire project took seven hours to be completed.

According to the ministry, the two Mirages will land on the freeway, refuel, take on missiles and then take off.

Military sources said the USS Kitty Hawk is heading toward the area in which the navy's exercise will be held.

Huang would not confirm whether the US ship will join in the exercises.

"They [the US navy] have their own annual exercises and we have ours. It is just a coincidence that the US and Taiwanese navies are carrying out their exercises in the same sea area. I assure you that channels of communication between us remain the same as before," Huang said.

He said there was nothing un-usual about the Chinese land, sea and air exercises on Dongshan island off China's south coast.

"China's Dongshan military exercise is also an annual military activity held between May and August. Military activities like these are quite normal and we conduct them all the time too. We cannot say that there is some connection between the exercises or that China is staging its exercises in response to our own, as some newspapers reported," Huang said.

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