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JET FIGHTER FREEWAY DRILL HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BEIJING: AIR FORCE

2004-07-14 20:36:16

    Taipei, July 14 (CNA) The plan to have air force jet fighters conduct take-off and landing drills on the Sun Yat-sen Expressway next week has nothing to do with mainland China's new "beheading" warfare tactics, a senior military officer said Wednesday.

    Liu Yi-tien, director of the political warfare department at the ROC Air Force General Headquarters, was responding to media reports that the freeway drill is a preparation for an emergency evacuation of the head of state in the event of a surprise attack by mainland China.

    Liu said the reports were sheer speculation, saying that the military has been planning the freeway drill since last year while mainland China didn't begin mulling the so-called "beheading action plan" until recently.

    Liu stressed that the decision to conduct jet fighter landing and take-off drills on the Sun Yat-sen Expressway's Jenteh section in the southern county of Tainan near President Chen's hometown was made mainly because its surroundings are most suitable for the training exercise. "The area is the safest for the drill while the inconveniences or disturbances to normal traffic will be limited," Liu explained, adding that the section's proximity to President Chen's hometown has never been taken into account.

    According to the air force plan, two of its French-built Mirage 2005 jet fighters will land on the expressway, refuel, take on missiles and then take off on July 21 as part of the annual "Han Kuang, " or Chinese Glory, war games that will culminate in combined services live-fire exercises in August. "The freeway drill is designed to test the combined operations of traffic control, road clearance, logistics operations, and air traffic control so that we can determine whether the air force can sustain its combat readiness during wartime," Liu said.

    Drawing inspiration from the U.S. "shock and awe" tactics used in the war in Iraq, mainland Chinese military strategists have advocated using a similar strategy, known as the "beheading action," to force Taiwan to capitulate quickly in the event of a cross-Taiwan Strait war.

    In preparation for the July 21 freeway drill, two Mirage fighters took off from an air base in Hsinchu early Wednesday morning for low-altitude flights over the Jenteh tarmac. The military mobilized 40-plus logistics vehicles to support the drill. A locally built Ching-kuo indigenous defense fighter flew over the region first to test weather conditions. As the military didn't impose any traffic control on the freeway, the simulated drill drew attention from motorists and many residents in the nearby region also converged on the freeway overpasses to view the test flights.

    Air force authorities said they were satisfied with Wednesday's simulated low-altitude flights over the Jenteh tarmac.

(BY Sofia Wu)

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