The Ministry of National Defense yesterday condemned rumors, believed to have originated from China, alleging that a missing Taiwanese F-16 jet and its pilot had defected to China.
The F-16, piloted by Colonel Chiang Cheng-chih (蔣正志), disappeared from radar at 6:07pm on Tuesday, two minutes after taking off from Hualien Air Base, as the search for the missing jet continued yesterday, the ministry said.
The jet disappeared over waters just off the coast of Hualien County, it said.
Soon after the incident, comments online claimed that the jet and its pilot had defected to China, landing at Xiamen Airport in China’s Fujian Province.
“Extra! An F-16 has landed at Xiamen Airport,” a user wrote on the Chinese microblogging Web site Sina Weibo, with a photograph of an F-16.
“Stop searching now. It is at Xiamen air base,” another user wrote on Twitter.
The ministry said that there was no such evidence to support the claims, attributing them to Internet sources backed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“The rumors spread by the CCP’s Internet army are despicable. We have debunked these self-deceiving and narcissistic rumors,” Ministry of National Defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發) said yesterday.
“Mrs Chiang also heard the rumors, and she was furious,” Yen said, adding that the pilot’s wife described her husband as a hero and said she was proud of him.
Spreading rumors only ignites a sense of patriotism and a will to fight among Taiwanese soldiers, Yen said.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) called the rumors “absurd and inhumane.”
A military source said it would be extremely difficult for a Chinese or Taiwanese plane to defect to the other side due to the use of advanced radar systems.
Taiwan’s air force would intercept such unplanned movements, as would China, the source said.
The F-16 also took off from eastern Taiwan, which is farther from China, and it was accompanied by other planes during the training mission, the source said.
The military has detected the source of nine signals in the area where the plane might have crashed, which it has given to a salvage ship commissioned by the ministry to investigate, Yen said.
The military said it believed the signals originated from parts of the aircraft.
The salvage ship on Thursday completed an initial investigation of seven signal sources and was to cover the remaining two yesterday, Yen said.
Experts are to analyze the signals to confirm which ones, if any, are from the plane before starting an underwater search, he said.
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