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September 22, 2017

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Air Force fighter jets escort Ma's flight en route to Xi meeting

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Military aircraft were dispatched to escort President Ma Ying-jeou's chartered flight to Singapore for the historic meeting with mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping, military sources told local media yesterday.

Four Mirage 2000-5 fighters of the R.O.C. Air Force's 499th Tactical Fighter Wing took off from northern Hsinchu Air Base around 5:40 a.m. yesterday to secure the northern airspace of the island and to escort Ma's chartered flight that took off from Taipei at 6 a.m.

Aside from the Mirage 2000s, F-16s from Taiwan's 445 fighter squadron and IDFs from 443 fighter squadron also took turns for the escort mission, military sources told local media.

The fighter jets provided an escort until the plane left Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and entered Philippine airspace.

Additionally, Taiwan's E-2K airborne early-warning aircraft was also dispatched from Eastern Taiwan to secure the airspace around the island, the sources said.

According to local media reports, such escort missions are a routine practice for the R.O.C. Air Force.

Whenever a Taiwanese president is aboard an aircraft, R.O.C. Air Force Combatant Command raises the alert and dispatches military jets to make sure the airspace where the aircraft with the president aboard is traveling through is secure and safe.

Fighter jets would also fly alongside the president's flight to offer an escort and to salute the president who is also the commander-in-chief of the nation's Armed Forces.

Citing Flightradar24, an Internet-based service that shows real-time aircraft flight information on a map, the Chinese-language United Evening News said yesterday that Ma's chartered flight, a China Airlines flight with the aircraft registration number C12751, took off from Taipei Songshan Airport around 6 a.m.

Ma's flight did not use the "W-4" flight route that most Taiwanese aircraft make use of, the report quoted Flightradar24 record as saying.

Ma's flight took the "A-577" international flight route and left Taiwan's ADIZ around 7:10 a.m. before entering Philippine airspace, the report said.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) left for Singapore for a bilateral meeting with Xi, a historic summit that Ma hopes will become the first step toward regular talks between leaders of the two former adversaries.

Ma's chartered flight arrived in Singapore at 10:30 a.m. and beginning at 3:00 p.m., the two presidents met behind closed doors for an hour, the first such meeting since before 1949, when the Kuomintang government moved to Taiwan following a civil war with the Chinese communists.

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