2 US F-18s approach ROC C-130 returning from visit to Taiping

TAIPEI — A C-130 transport plane carrying a group of 20 former senior government officials from Taiwan proper to Taiping Island was apparently approached by two U.S. jet fighters on its return trip, a local newspaper reported.

The United Daily News reported that the C-130 appeared to be approached by two F-18s that took off from the U.S. air carrier USS John C. Stennis over the South China Sea. The jet fighters were at visual range from the C-130 at one point, the newspaper reported.

Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. David Lo (???) said that an unidentified aircraft had approached the C-130 without specifying the type or origin of the aircraft.

The officials, led by former Premier Hau Pei-tsun, visited Taiping Island in the South China Sea on Thursday to highlight the country’s sovereignty over the disputed area.

The officials departed from Taipei Songshan Airport early in the morning on a special Air Force flight to a military airport in Pingtung, where they transferred to a C-130 transport plane that took them to Taiping Island, the largest of the Spratly Islands.

Included in the group was former Premier Mao Chi-kuo, former National Security Council secretary generals Su Chi and Hu Wei-jen and former minister of Foreign Affairs Chen Chien-jen.

Accompanied by coast guard personnel posted on the island, the former officials visited a wharf, a lighthouse, a photovoltaic facility, a post office, a hospital, a farm and a well in Taiping. They also prayed at a temple, according to the Coast Guard Administration (CGA).

During the tour, the visitors were served meals made from local ingredients and fresh water, which highlighted Taiping’s status as an island full of natural resources and capable of sustaining human habitation, the CGA said.

It said the visitors were especially impressed by the hospital, which hosts a range of cutting edge equipment.

The visit followed a trip to Taiping by President Ma Ying-jeou on Jan. 28 and a visit by a group of international journalists in March.

Lawmakers from the Democratic Progressive Party, however, expressed concern that the visit would raise tensions in the sensitive South China Sea, which is claimed in full or in part by several countries, including Taiwan, mainland China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The Legislative Yuan’s Foreign and National Defense Committee passed a proposal Wednesday, which stated that no government funds should be used for such visits, as former officials are no longer serving in government.

Source: China Post