Taiwan’s US-built F-16A fighter is thought to have crashed into the sea after the island’s air force said on Tuesday that the jet had disappeared from radar screen two minutes after taking off from an airbase in Hualien on the east coast of the island. The incident was the second loss of an F-16 fighter jet in less than a month.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen told reporters on Wednesday that the island’s air force has grounded its US-made F-16 fleet for checks after losing an F-16A warplane on a training mission.
The Defence Ministry, in turn, warned against speculations on why the F-16 disappeared from radar screens two minutes after lift-off, the second such incident in less than a month, adding that training missions should continue given the current threat from China.
The statement came after the ministry said in October that almost $900 million had already been spent this year on scrambling Taiwan’s Air Force against Chinese incursions, describing the pressure the military is facing as “great”.
In a separate development last month, China conducted military exercises near the Taiwan Strait, which Beijing said were aimed at protecting the country’s territorial integrity following US Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment Keith Krach’s visit to Taiwan on 17 September.
According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the visit violated the One-China principle and the three China-US joint communiques on developing a bilateral dialogue.