Tue, Dec 05, 2017 - Page 3 News List

N Korea not an adversary: minister

BLOWING IN THE WIND:Salvage operations for the lost Mirage 2000 were stalled over the weekend due to high winds and its data recorder has stopped transmitting

By Lu Yi-hsuan and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Navy Command Headquarters Chief of Staff Lee Tsung-hsiao, right, waves his finger while answering a question yesterday at a session of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee in Taipei, while Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan listens.

Photo: Chen Chih-chu, Taipei Times

China poses the most immediate threat to the nation and the military is more concerned with China than it is with North Korea, Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) said yesterday in response to lawmakers’ questions.

Feng made the comments at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee during a defense budget review, after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) asked him about rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The US and South Korea yesterday began their largest-ever joint military exercise, less than a week after North Korea launched its latest intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-15, in a test.

“The public should rest assured that the nation’s military has the capability to detect North Korean missile launches and predict where their warheads will fall,” Feng said.

While the US has reiterated that North Korea is its adversary, North Korea is not Taiwan’s adversary, although Taiwan would be obliged to extend humanitarian aid to affected countries should there be an outbreak of hostilities, he said.

“Our job is to monitor communist Chinese activities. We analyze communist China’s openly or internally published information of troop movements, because it is the primary and most direct threat to the nation,” he said.

DPP Legislator Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳) asked whether Taiwan would issue civilian alarms in case of North Korean missile launches, saying that the US has reactivated protocols for nuclear strike alarms and civilian exercises.

The military is working on an alarm system and coding software to send alerts to televisions and mobile devices, General Staff Deputy Chief of Operations and Planning Lieutenant General Chiang Chen-chung (姜振中) said.

In other news, Feng yesterday told lawmakers that poor weather had stymied efforts to recover the air force’s Dassault Mirage 2000 fighter that disappeared at sea on Nov. 7.

The air force has continued its surveillance flights, ships are continuously watching over the crash area and a contractor has been appointed for its salvage, Feng said.

However, the recovery operation was disrupted by bad weather conditions on Saturday and Sunday, he said.

The winds measuring level 7 on the Beaufort scale greatly exceed the maximum level under which salvage operations can proceed, he said, adding that the military is waiting for the seas to calm.

Recovering the jet and its onboard data recorder is crucial to investigations, he said.

The crashed jet, a single-seater with the tail number 2040, was piloted by Captain Ho Tzu-yu (何子雨) of the Hsinchu-based 499th Tactical Fighter Wing, when it vanished over the seas north of Taiwan.

The wreckage of the fighter is believed to rest on the seabed 100m deep and 145km to the north-northwest of Keelung, sources said.

Air force Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Cheng Jung-feng (鄭榮豐) yesterday said that the flight data recorder had stopped transmitting, possibly due to oceanic current-induced damage or change of location.

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