The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday declined to explain why national emblems on two military aircraft transporting tsunami aid to Indonesia had been covered over.
Two planes were seen landing at Singapore's Changi Airport last Friday. Photos apparently taken by local aviation enthusiasts showed aircraft with a striking resemblance to planes used by Taiwan's air force.
While unnamed military officials confirmed that the air force had sent the aircraft, the photos revealed that the national emblems on the bodies and wings of the jets were covered with dark paint.
"Sources said the destination of the transportation jets was Medan, Indonesia. The jets flew over Philippine, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Singaporean and Indonesian air space," the Chinese-language Liberty Times reported.
When asked why the government had concealed the emblems on the aircraft, ministry spokesman Michel Lu (
"Our point is to show love from Taiwan. The ministry is only responsible for communicating with relevant countries on administrative matters [regarding the aircraft]. We cannot comment on the details of how the process of transportation was executed," Lu said at a press conference yesterday.
The missing emblems are an indicator of the sensitivity surrounding Taiwan's efforts to send aid to tsunami victims in countries that do not maintain diplomatic relations with Taipei.
Lu also responded to an Indonesian diplomat's remark that the Indonesian government had rejected Taiwan's aid.
He said Taiwanese aid was not being delivered via official channels and that four non-governmental organizations were involved with aid distribution instead.
To strengthen aid delivery to tsunami-hit areas, the ministry yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding with Mercy Corps International.
"We are thankful for the ministry's donation of US$250,000 to help our reconstruction work in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka," said Diana Tsui (
Lu also said three Taiwanese academics were attending the five-day World Conference on Disaster Reduction, which started in Kobe, Japan yesterday. The global conference is expected to focus on creating a warning system for countries stricken by last month's tsunami.
"The three Taiwanese experts will join the Kobe conference in a private capacity," Lu said.
The gathering has brought some 3,000 government officials, non-government experts and other specialists from around the world to discuss improving ways of protecting people from natural disasters.
UN emergency relief chief Jan Egeland said at the start of the conference that the best way to honor the dead is to protect the living.
Taiwan, despite being one of the world's biggest donors of aid to tsunami victims, was barred from participating in an earlier disaster summit hosted by ASEAN in Jakarta on Jan. 6.