Military tracking Chinese warplanes: defense chief

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, Nov 23, 2017 - Page 1

Multiple Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) aircraft passed through the Bashi Channel on their way to the western Pacific Ocean, where they are conducting long-term, blue-sea naval exercises beyond the first island chain, Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) said yesterday.

Feng assured a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee that the Ministry of National Defense was closely monitoring the situation.

According to reporters present at the meeting, Feng received several calls during the session and was overheard saying: “Be calm and do not provoke.”

A source said that Major General Wang Shao-hua (王紹華) asked to be excused from the legislative session.

During questioning by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆), Feng said that the incident was noteworthy, as the group of 10 airplanes included bombers, and surveillance and aerial refueling aircraft.

It was evident that the PLAAF was conducting a practical simulation of an attack run, Feng said, adding that the air force scrambled fighters prepared to intercept any intrusion of the nation’s air defense identification zone.

Chinese aircraft would not be immediately shot down if they enter the nation’s airspace, but there are contingencies for response if they do, he said.

Asked by reporters during a brief mid-session break about the direction the PLAAF aircraft took, Feng said the ministry has yet to ascertain whether the airplanes would travel to Chinese bases in the north or return to base through the same path.

He confirmed that the group included Xian H-6 bombers, the Chinese version of the former Soviet Union’s Tupolev Tu-16 strategic bomber.

The ministry will “provide all information truthfully,” he added.

It is imperative to let the public know that the readiness of the armed forces has not been compromised by a snowballing scandal involving a navy minesweeper procurement program, he said.

Feng and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Executive Yuan and the Financial Supervisory Commission were asked to expound at the session on all government contracts with Ching Fu Shipbuilding Co (慶富造船), the company at the center of the procurement scandal.

Feng arrived late for the legislative session due to a national security meeting at the Presidential Office Building.

Ching Fu had obtained contracts to build six minesweepers for the navy, 28 vessels for the Coast Guard Administration, an aquarium for the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium through subsidiary Ching Yang Aqua Marine Enterprises Co (慶陽海洋企業) and a ship for Pacific island ally Tuvalu.