Fri, Nov 12, 2004 - Page 1 News List

President's plane not intercepted: MND

CROSS-STRAIT TENSIONS The national defense ministry said that media reports that the presidential flight had been interfered with by Chinese fighter jets was false

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday denied a report in the local media, which claimed that President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) presidential flight had been intercepted by Chinese fighter jets several weeks ago, saying that the story was completely false.

"The MND maintains efficient monitoring of any movement by the Chinese military," said a news release issued by the ministry's spokesman's office.

"In accordance with our records, Chinese jets were patrolling in an area 11 miles west of the `middle line' of the Taiwan Strait on Sept. 27, but none of the patrols occured during the afternoon while President Chen's chartered plane flew to Penghu, an outlying island."

"Moreover, during Vice President Annette Lu's (呂秀蓮) flight to Penghu on Oct. 2, the MND did not observe any Chinese fighter jet activity in the area," the news release said.

A local newspaper reported in yesterday's front page that Chen and Lu's flights to Penghu Island had both been interfered with by Chinese jets in the area.

The president's pilots altered their flight path to avoid the Chinese jets, delaying Chen's arrival at Penghu by 15 minutes, the report said. It did not say how close the jets came to the presidential aircraft.

The MND stressed that the Air Force had comprehensive protective measures in place, including both air and ground assets, to protect the president and vice president's chartered flights when they were traveling to or from the outlying islands.

MND spokesman Major General Huang Suey-sheng (黃穗生) said that the media should cautiously report all military and defense-related events by verifying whether their sources and information were correct, to avoid creating disturbances.

Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), executive-director of the Institute for National Policy Research and an associate professor of political science at Soochow University, said that although the report about the Chinese jets' interference had been denied by the MND, it still reminded people of China's provocative actions.

"Not only all Taiwanese people, but also the international community should enhance their support for President Chen's recent appeal that both sides of the Taiwan Strait establish a `Code of Conduct across the Taiwan Strait' as a guarantee of peace," Lo said.

"Beijing has obviously tried to strengthen its domination of Taiwan by sending more jets to cross the middle line of the Strait, thus increasing the insecurity felt by Taiwan's people," Lo said. "However, Beijing should understand that such a strategy can only result in regional instability and increase the possibility of unnecessary military conflict."

Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said that Chen is devoted to realizing his promise of building peace-ensuring mechanisms between the two sides of the Strait, and the government hopes that Beijing can react positively to the overtures to effectively reduce the possibility of any misjudgment by leaders on either side.

However, opposition politicians said that the media report was just another trick orchestrated by the government to enhance the sense of fear regarding China's military threats among ordinary Taiwanese.

"The newspaper story cited unidentified `reliable sources,' which didn't say whether the reported encounter with the Chinese jets was a coincidence or an act of intimidation by China," said Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus whip Huang Teh-fu (黃德福).

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