Taiwan's deputy military chief visits Dongsha Islands following plane row

10/20/2020 11:40 PM
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Photo courtesy of the Military News Agency
Photo courtesy of the Military News Agency

Taipei, Oct. 20 (CNA) Taiwan's deputy military chief on Tuesday made a visit to the Dongsha Islands in the South China Sea, in what is believed to be an attempt to dispel doubts about Taiwan's ability to maintain supplies to the islands after a recent row with the Hong Kong air traffic control.

Deputy Chief of the General Staff Li Ting-sheng (李廷盛), accompanied by a Coast Guard officer, arrived in the Dongsha Islands aboard a C-130 military cargo plane, according to the Military News Agency.

The lieutenant-general inspected the living facilities of the military personnel stationed there and gave them some words of encouragement, according to the news agency.

He also instructed them to conduct joint intelligence surveillance, reconnaissance and combat readiness missions, according to the agency.

Li's visit came after a military-chartered civilian aircraft from Taiwan was advised by Hong Kong air traffic controllers on Oct. 15 not to enter the airspace over Dongsha Islands, also known as the Pratas Islands, because "dangerous activities" were in progress in the area.

The UNI Air ATR2-600 aircraft, which was trying to transport coast guard officers and marine national park personnel to Dongsha, was eventually forced to return to Kaohsiung.

Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration later disclosed a full transcript of the communications between Taiwanese and Hong Kong air traffic controllers, showing that the Hong Kong side did not specify what the dangers were and why it did not issue a notice to airmen in advance.

The Dongsha Islands, administered by Taiwan but also claimed by China, are located about 310 kilometers southeast of Hong Kong and are within its Flight Information Region (FIR).

It has been standard practice for Taiwanese air traffic controllers to inform their Hong Kong counterparts whenever a plane in the Taipei FIR is about to enter the Hong Kong FIR and is about 20-30 nautical miles away.

Rising tensions across the Taiwan Strait and the incident on Oct. 15 have raised doubts about whether Taiwan could continue to send supplies and personnel to the islands unhindered.

(By You Kai-hsiang and Christie Chen)

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