TAIPEI: Taiwan’s government expressed anger after China “unilaterally” changed a flight path close to the sensitive median line in the Taiwan Strait, saying it appeared to be a deliberate attempt to change the status quo for possible military means.
China’s civil aviation administration said in a short statement late Tuesday that from Thursday it was cancelling an “offset measure” for the southbound operation of the M503 flight route, which is just west of the strait’s median line.
The median line had for years served as an unofficial barrier between Chinese-claimed Taiwan and China, but China says it does not recognise its existence and Chinese warplanes now regularly fly over it as Beijing seeks to pressure Taipei to accept its sovereignty claims.
China also said it was opening routes from west to east – in other words in the direction of Taiwan – on two flight paths from China’s Xiamen and Fuzhou city which are close to the Taiwanese-controlled island groups of Kinmen and Matsu.
Taiwan’s civil aviation administration and China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council both labelled the moves as “unilateral” and that they strongly protested it.
The Mainland Affairs Council said China was ignoring flight safety, disrespecting Taiwan and trying to “package” civil aviation for political or military considerations to potentially change the status quo in the strait.
“If the mainland side clings obstinately to its course, it must bear any serious consequences affecting cross-strait relations,” it said.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office described the changes as “routine” and to help alleviate pressure on air space.
“It is also conducive to improving cross-strait flight operations and further facilitating cross-strait people-to-people exchanges, which are in line with the common interests of compatriots on both sides of the strait,” it said in a statement.