President visits long-range, early-warning station: Media speculates on US personnel spotted in the background
President Tsai Ing-wen visited a long-range, early-warning radar facility today, October 13, and the media is abuzz about the first time US personnel have been included in official pictures on the site.
Due to adverse weather conditions, a helicopter could not be used to transport President Tsai to the facility, but not to be deterred, a bus was deployed to ferry the presidential contingent from Zhudong Township to the remote base, situated at an altitude of more than 2,600 meters, in Wufeng Township, Hsinchu County.
The trip to Leshan took around two hours on winding, narrow mountain roads.
President Tsai has been engaged in an increasing number of visits to military units and bases in order to boost morale in the face of intensifying military aggression and threats from the People’s Republic of China, who claims that Taiwan is part of its own territory.
The Leshan Radar Station was commissioned in 2003 after the United States agreed to sell the Precision Acquisition Vehicle Entry, Phased Array Warning System (PAVE PAWS) to Taiwan.
Originally designed to protect the United States from an intercontinental ballistic missile strike during the Cold War, the Raytheon developed technology officially went into service at Leshan in 2013.
The Leshan Radar Station is capable of providing Taiwan with more than six minutes warning of incoming missile threats.
The radar system can detect objects in flight at a distance of up to 5,000 kilometers. Since coming into service, the facility has been able to monitor missile launches in North Korea, as well as missile-interception weapons being launched in China.
Some media reports on the President’s visit to the facility focused on an official photograph released by the military which showed an apparently foreign, and assumed American, man standing behind the delegation.
“Tsai Ing-wen went to Leshan radar station and was shocked to see US personnel following,” a China Times headlined blared.
Noting that the Leshan Radar Station is a highly-classified facility, China Times pointed out that images and video released by Taiwan’s military goes through a rigorous review process to avoid leaking confidential information.
The Tsai administration had deliberately included a US personnel in the picture to show the close relationship between Taiwan and the United States, the China Times report concluded.
A short time later Liberty Times reported that Air Force Command had issued a press release this evening, confirming that the person in the photograph is indeed a representative dispatched by the United States in accordance with the operational agreement for the facility. Such technical advisors and personnel are employed to maintain the radar systems.
Technical representatives provide maintenance services to assist the smooth operation of the system and ensure Taiwan’s air defense, the press release said.
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