Taiwan's top military official was among eight people killed in an air force helicopter crash in mountainous terrain outside Taipei on Thursday, the defense ministry said. Five others survived. As chief of the general staff, Gen. Shen Yi-ming was responsible for overseeing the self-governing island's defense against China, which threatens to use military force if necessary to annex what it considers part of its territory. The helicopter was flying from Taipei to the nearby city of Yilan for a New Year's activity when it crashed, the AP reports. The victims included other senior military officials and the two pilots. The UH-60M Blackhawk with 13 people on board dropped from the radar screen 10 minutes after takeoff from Songshan air force base around 7:50am, Taiwan's defense ministry said.
It went down in the mountainous, heavily forested Wulai area southeast of the capital. Shen, 63, had taken over as chief of the general staff in July after serving as commander of Taiwan’s air force. The loss of Shen and other high-ranking officials will require a rapid reshuffle of positions, but should have minimal effect on Taiwan's Jan. 11 elections for president and lawmakers, said Andrew Yang, a former deputy defense minister who said Shen was highly respected throughout his career. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party said in a statement on social media that all its public campaign events from now through Saturday would be cancelled. "The loss of pillars of our country make us feel endless sorrow," the statement read.
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