Taipei protests Beijing’s ‘unliateral’ change to Taiwan Strait flight route

Beijing, Jan 31 (EFE).- Taiwan’s Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) has protested China’s “unilateral” change to a civil air route running parallel to the median line of the Taiwan Strait.

According to Taipei state media outlet Focus Taiwan late Tuesday, the CAA said it “deeply regretted and strongly protested” the Civil Aviation Administration of China’s (CAAC) decision earlier the same day that from Feb. 1 it was canceling an “offset measure” for the southbound operation of flight route M503, which runs from north to south, just west of the median line.

After the adjustment, planes traveling along the M503 will fly about 7 kilometers from the median line, according to Taiwanese experts.

The CACC also announced the opening of flight routes W122 and W123, which run from west to east, towards the island.

These routes will depart from the Chinese cities of Fuzhou and Xiamen, near the Taiwanese-controlled Kinmen and Matsu islands, and a few kilometers from the southeastern Chinese coast.

Taiwan’s CAA said the decision “blatantly contradicts a consensus reached between both sides of the Taiwan Strait in 2015” when, after declaring the operation of route M503 and negotiations with Taipei, China agreed to move it 6 nautical miles west from the original path, Focus Taiwan reported.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) demanded Beijing “stop such irresponsible flight operations immediately” and that they appear to be a deliberate attempt to use civil aviation as a cover for political, and possibly military intentions aimed at altering the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, Focus Taiwan added.

Chen Binhua, a spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said Wednesday that the M503 route is for civil aviation and is in the Shanghai flight information region.

“It is to alleviate congestion for the related airspace and routes, and ensure aviation safety,” he said.

Beijing and Taipei had for decades respected the median line as a boundary but, following the 2022 visit to the island of then-US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Chinese warplanes have consistently ignored it.

The adjustment of M503 occurs after the island’s presidential elections on Jan. 13, in which William Lai (Lai Ching-te), considered a “troublemaker” by Beijing, won with 40 percent of the votes.

China claims sovereignty over the island and considers Taiwan a rebel province that it has not ruled out the use of force in order to achieve “reunification.” EFE


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