TAIPEI – Rising Sun flag emblems on two of Taiwan’s fighter jets, representing Japanese aircraft shot down during the war, have been removed before the aircraft go on display Saturday, following concerns raised by Tokyo’s de facto mission.
The Rising Sun flags had been painted on the two fighter jets to represent the number of Japanese planes shot down by the Flying Tigers fighter unit during the war. Because Taiwan does not have any Flying Tigers planes that actually fought in the war, the Taiwanese military decided to paint the decals on the two jets in the spirit of the Flying Tigers unit, which used U.S.-made Curtis P-40 propeller-driven aircraft.
On Tuesday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. David Lo, told a press conference that the decals were only meant to “restore historic truth” of the Republic of China’s eight-year war of resistance against Japanese aggression but it has caused “different interpretations.”
“Our intention was to remind the public of the atrocity of war and importance of peace,” he said. “However, we take different opinions seriously.”
The move caught the attention of Japan’s de facto mission in Taiwan, which expressed concern.
The decals were later removed, causing some to criticize the military for being inconsistent in its policy and bowing to Japanese pressure.
On Wednesday, Chang Che-ping, director of the Air Force’s Warfare Department, told a news conference that they were under no pressure when they decided to remove the decals.
He admitted the decision was not well thought out and promised to be more careful next time.
The two fighter jets are among the more than 60 military aircraft and over 290 military vehicles scheduled to be displayed Saturday at an army base in Hsinchu, northwestern Taiwan.
The display is part of a series of events organized by the Defense Ministry to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
The ROC government called the occasion “victory in the eight-year war of resistance against Japanese aggression” and “Taiwan’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule.”
China was ruled by the Kuomintang’s (KMT) Republic of China government when Japan was defeated in World War II. Four years after the war ended, the KMT troops, facing an onslaught of communist forces, retreated to Taiwan, which still formally calls itself ROC and claims the mainland as its territory.
Since then, China and Taiwan have been governed separately. Beijing has long threatened to use force, if necessary, to reunite both sides under the leadership of the People’s Republic of China.
To celebrate the anniversary of World War II’s end, the KMT government will hold a series of events from July 7 to Oct. 25.