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《TAIPEI TIMES》 President Lai visits fighter pilots

President William Lai, center, poses for a photo during a visit to the air base in Hualien yesterday.
Photo: Chiang Ying-ying, AP

President William Lai, center, poses for a photo during a visit to the air base in Hualien yesterday. Photo: Chiang Ying-ying, AP

2024/05/29 03:00

/ Staff writer, with Reuters and AFP

President William Lai (賴清德) thanked fighter pilots who scrambled to face Chinese planes last week during People’s Liberation Army military drills conducted around Taiwan, as he was briefed on the events at a frontline air base yesterday.

China on Thursday last week undertook two days of drills, which Taiwan condemned, in what it called “punishment” for Lai’s inauguration speech on Monday last week.

China says Lai is a “separatist” and has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.

Lai rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims, saying only Taiwanese can decide their future.

Visiting the east coast air base of Hualien, which is home to Taiwan’s most advanced fighter jets, the F-16Vs, Lai had lunch with some of the pilots who scrambled during the drills.

He toasted the troops for their hard work “in response to China’s military exercises” — his first direct reference to the war games on Thursday and Friday.

“Let’s work together and continue to work hard to make our country safer,” he said.

“I would like to thank all brothers and sisters for sticking to their posts and protecting national security,” he added. “In recent days in response to the Chinese military exercises, everyone did a good job.”

Lai said he received a detailed briefing on the pilots’ response and the abilities of their fighter planes.

“Everyone is on standby 24 hours a day to perform air patrol missions... All brothers and sisters use their firm determination and outstanding combat skills to demonstrate their air combat capabilities and protect our airspace,” he added.

He gave the soldiers a “red envelope” — a tradition during holidays — as a token of appreciation and took group photos with the troops.

Lai also watched artillerymen demonstrate loading and discharging a howitzer.

Some hangars at the Hualien base are cut out of the side of a mountain to protect them from air attack.

Taiwan has been converting 141 of its existing Lockheed Martin Corp F-16A/B jets to F-16Vs, and has also ordered 66 new F-16Vs with upgraded avionics, weapons and radar systems to improve its ability to face the Chinese air force, including its J-20 stealth fighters.

The F-16Vs can also carry Raytheon Technologies Corp’s advanced AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.

The Ministry of National Defense said three Chinese warplanes, and 11 naval and coastguard ships were detected in Taiwan’s air defense identification zone the past 24 hours — down from the 21 aircraft and 15 ships it reported on Monday.

Experts say these are “gray zone tactics,” which stop short of outright acts of war, but serve to exhaust the military.

新聞來源:TAIPEI TIMES


Soldiers demonstrate Howitzer firing routine during the visit of President William Lai, not pictured, inside a military base in Hualien yesterday.
Photo: Ritchie B. Tong, EPA-EFE

Soldiers demonstrate Howitzer firing routine during the visit of President William Lai, not pictured, inside a military base in Hualien yesterday. Photo: Ritchie B. Tong, EPA-EFE

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