Safety the rea­son for emer­gency F-18 land­ing in Tai­wan: US

The China Post - - LOCAL -

A U.S. mil­i­tary spokesman said Thurs­day that the rea­son for land­ing two F-18 fighters in Tai­wan was based on prox­im­ity and weather con­di­tions, down­play­ing spec­u­la­tion that the land­ing was a “po­lit­i­cal mes­sage to China.”

“The rea­son for se­lect­ing Tai­wan as a land­ing site was based on prox­im­ity and weather con­ducive to land­ing,” said Maj. Paul L. Green­berg, a public af­fairs of­fi­cer for the U.S. Marine Corps. He stressed that safety is al­ways a top pri­or­ity in a flight op­er­a­tion.

“Our pi­lots have the re­spon­si­bil­ity for di­vert­ing their air­craft to the near­est ap­proved air­field if they ex­pe­ri­ence an in-flight con­di­tion which they deem un­safe,” he said. “This is done in or­der to pro­tect the pi­lots, crew and the air­craft.”

His re­marks came in re­sponse to an April 1 re­port in the Wash­ing­ton Times that said the emer­gency land­ing of the two U.S. Marine Corps F-18 fighters in Tai­wan “ap­pears to have been a po­lit­i­cal mes­sage from the Pen­tagon to Bei­jing fol­low­ing a re­cent Chi­nese bomber drill near the is­land na­tion that is a key ri­val to Bei­jing’s rule.”

In the re­port, mil­i­tary an­a­lyst Rick Fisher was quoted as say­ing that the air­craft could have made a land­ing at a less-con­tro­ver­sial lo­ca­tion such as the Ja­panese air­field at Shimoji is­land, which is 120 miles east of Tai­wan.

A Sig­nal to China: Ex­pert

The land­ing for the two F-18s at an air base in Tai­wan, “while per- haps un­in­tended, does give China a sig­nif­i­cant sig­nal of U.S. re­solve, two days af­ter China used its new H-6K nu­clear cruise mis­sile bomber in ex­er­cises in­tended to sig­nal a threat to U.S. forces on Guam,” said Fisher, a se­nior fel­low at the In­ter­na­tional As­sess­ment and Strat­egy Cen­ter.

An­other an­a­lyst Michael Swaine, how­ever, held a dif­fer­ent view. It was un­likely that a po­lit­i­cal mes­sage was in­volved in the in­ci­dent, he said.

The Pen­tagon is a pro­fes­sional mil­i­tary agency and when an air­craft en­coun­ters a me­chan­i­cal prob­lem, the safety of the crew and the air­craft is the top con­cern for choos­ing a land­ing lo­ca­tion, said Swaine, a se­nior as­so­ciate at the Wash­ing­ton-based Carnegie En­dow­ment for In­ter­na­tional Peace and a spe­cial­ist in U.S.-China re­la­tions and East Asian in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions.

The F-18s landed at Tainan Air Force Base on Wed­nes­day due to “a per­sis­tent en­gine oil pres­sure warn­ing light” in one of the air­craft, said Green­berg. The other fighter landed in or­der to main­tain sec­tion in­tegrity, he added.

En Route to Sin­ga­pore

The F-18s, which were from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 (VMFA-323), were en route to Sin­ga­pore to par­tic­i­pate in Commando Sling, which is an air-to-air ex­er­cise with Sin­ga­pore, af­ter tak­ing off from Ja­pan, ac­cord­ing to Green­berg.

One day af­ter the emer­gency land­ing, Amer­i­can per­son­nel ar­rived in Tai­wan Thurs­day evening on board a C-130 to re­pair the me­chan­i­cal prob­lem on the F-18 fighter.

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