TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan Defense Minister Yen Te-fa (嚴德發) confirmed Tuesday (April 21) that two Goodwill Fleet vessels at the center of a Wuhan coronavirus scandal returned to Zuoying naval base on April 9 but went back to sea April 12-13 to monitor China's Liaoning aircraft carrier.
So far, 27 Goodwill Fleet individuals have been diagnosed with Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), after returning from Palau. The navy’s mishandling of the viral outbreak has attracted widespread criticism, prompting the Ministry of National Defense (MND) to hold a press conference Tuesday evening, led by Yen, CNA reported.
Yen first bowed and and apologized to the public, as did MND Deputy Minister of Military and Political Affairs Zhang Che-ping (張哲平), MND Inspector General Lieutenant General Huang Kuo-ming (黃國明), Director of Political Operations Lieutenant General Chien Shih-wei (簡士偉), MND Director of Legal Affairs Major General Shen Shih-wei (沈世偉), and MND Spokesman Major General Shih Shun-wen (史順文).
The two Taiwan navy ships were the Cheng Kung-class frigate Yue Fei and Kang Ding-class frigate Kang Ding. Yen confirmed at the press conference the Chinese aircraft carrier passed through the Bashi Channel from Taiwan’s eastern waters and sailed southwest.
The ships were dispatched to monitor Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and guard the nation’s maritime borders. Also, Taiwan naval academy students were sent to integrate theory with real experience and become battle-ready sailors, explained Yen.
At the press conference, reporters brought up the allegation of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇), who said the fleet's "goodwill voyage" included a “secret mission." Yen responded the Goodwill Fleet's route was the result of "vigilant" planning.