Air force chief slams press

DEFENSE: General Chen Chao-ming reminded reporters that it was the air force that was patrolling the Taiwan Strait, keeping the country safe from Chinese fighters

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sat, Feb 03, 2001 - Page 3

Enraged by a string of negative media reports about the air force in recent months, air force chief General Chen Chao-ming (陳肇敏) broke his silence Thursday, lashing out at the press for the reports.

"All these reports serve only to discourage our own people while encouraging our enemy [China]. Is our air force really in as a bad shape as reported by the press?" Chen said.

"Some reports say the operation ratio of F-16 fighter planes was only 28 percent, or 25 percent, at one time last year. They have dealt a severe blow to the morale of the air force," he said.

The air force chief caught the press off guard with the rare harsh criticism Thursday night as he spoke at a post-Chinese New Year dinner party with the press.

Chen reminded the press of the air force's contribution to the security in the Taiwan Strait, especially in recent years as the Chinese air force sends more and more fighter planes into the Strait.

"Chinese fighter planes have made quite frequent flights into the Taiwan Strait since former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) came out with his special state-to-state statement in mid-1999," Chen said.

"Actually their flights into the Strait are more frequent than any other period in the past few decades. Although these flights do not go beyond the imaginary middle line of the Taiwan Strait, it adds a lot of pressure to the air force," he said. "Despite that fact, the public does not feel any pressure as the air force does during the same period. The situation in the Strait has generally been normal over the past 500 or so days."

Besides the sense of security the air force has brought to the public, Chen also highlighted an achievement of the service which he was proud of -- a zero crash rate over the past year.

"Last year was a crash-free year for the air force. It is the best record in the air force in four decades. We hope to extend the record to the next few years," Chen said. "The Singapore air force was established with our assistance. They have not had a crash for the past seven years. If they can do it, we can do it too."