Taipei, May 22 (CNA) The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said Tuesday it is not unprecedented for a U.S. military aircraft to stay over in Taiwan, referring to an Air Force plane that brought a U.S. congressional delegation to Taipei and was parked at a local airport for two nights.
"When a U.S. congressional delegation travels overseas on a military aircraft, it is very common for the plane to stay with them at each stop," said AIT spokesman Christopher Kavanagh.
"This is routine," he said. "The same plane will generally take the delegation to each of its stops along its itinerary."
The aircraft arrived at Taipei Songshan Airport on May 20, carrying a 21-member congressional delegation led by chairwoman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
The Boeing 737 U.S. Air Force executive jetliner was parked in a hangar at the airport and Taiwan's Mandarin Airlines was entrusted to supply fuel and water for the aircraft, according to a source familiar with the matter.
In the past, U.S. military aircraft bringing officials to Taiwan would drop off their passengers and then go to the Philippines, Guam or the Ryukyu Islands for security reasons or concerns over political sensitivity, said the source, who asked not to be named.
But Kavanagh said "U.S. military aircraft supporting congressional visitors have stayed in Taiwan before."
When asked about visit to Taiwan in April 2003 by then-Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist and a delegation aboard a U.S. military aircraft, Kavanagh said he did not have the details, including whether the plane stayed over in Taiwan.
Although not unprecedented, U.S. military aircraft staying over in Taiwan is not a common practice, said the source, adding that it showed ties between Taiwan and the U.S. have become closer and more stable.
(By Emmanuelle Tzeng, Rogge Chen and Jamie Wang)