01/02/2020, 15.48
TAIWAN
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Tsai Ing-wen cancels campaigning after Chief of the General Staff dies

General Shen Yi-ming and seven others die after the helicopter they were travelling in crashes in Wulai district. The president ordered flags to fly half-mast for three days in all of Taiwan’s military institutions. On 11 January, she is seeking a second mandate against Kaohsiung mayor.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (picture 1) cancelled campaigning today after Taiwan’s armed forces chief died in a helicopter crash along with seven other people in a mountainous region in northern Taiwan. This comes a few days before next week’s presidential election.

Taiwan’s Air Force confirmed this afternoon that General Shen Yi-ming (picture 2), Chief of the General Staff, was among the dead. The Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, which carried 13 people, made an emergency landing in Wulai district.

The dead include two major generals, Political Warfare Bureau Deputy Director Yu Chin-wen, and Hung Hung-chin, from the Defence Ministry’s Office of the Deputy Chief of the General Staff for Intelligence. Also killed were a lieutenant colonel, a captain, a major and two senior master sergeants.

The helicopter left Songshan Air Force Base in Taipei at 7:54 am (11.54 pm GMT) bound for a military base in Dongao, Yilan County, for New Year inspections.

At 8.07 am the pilot issued a weather report, before communications with the craft were abruptly lost. The helicopter crashed north of its destination (picture 3).

A few hours later, the Taiwanese president said she would cancel her campaigning activities for three days to deal with the accident as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

Ms Tsai arrived in Yilan in the afternoon where she expressed her sympathies. She ordered flags to fly at half-mast for three days at all of Taiwan’s military institutions, and called for an investigation into the cause of the incident.

“This is a very sorrowful day,” she said. “There were several capable, high-ranking officers who died at their posts in today's incident, and they were the most capable of our military, particularly Chief of Staff Shen.”

Tsai said she had ordered Defence Minister Yen Teh-fa to secure the island’s defences and ensure that military operations to protect Taiwan remained sound.

Taiwan’s presidential election is set for 11 January. Incumbent President Tsai is running for re-election against Han Kuo-yu, who won the primaries to run for the Kuomintang ( Nationalist Party) last July.

Han, who unexpectedly became Kaohsiung mayor in 2018, is considered a populist and favours closer ties to mainland China.

On Facebook he wrote that he and his team were “praying with all our hearts for the victims”.

“I want to express my condolences to the victims again and hope that all of us in the country can pray for them together,” also read the post.

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