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《TAIPEI TIMES》 China air routes panned as safety risk

2024/04/20 03:00

‘LEGAL WARFARE’: A DPP legislator said that China is attempting to ramp up the pressure on Taiwan ahead of the May 20 inauguration of president-elect William Lai

By Ben Blanchard and Ryan Woo / Reuters, TAIPEI and BEIJING

Taiwan yesterday said China’s decision to open new air routes that run perilously close to two of its islands was a flight safety risk taken without consultation, adding that it would demand any aircraft using them to turn around.

The government in January expressed anger after China unilaterally changed a flight path called M503 close to the median line of the Taiwan Strait.

The new Chinese routes to China’s Xiamen and Fuzhou cities, called W123 and W122 respectively, connect to the M503 flight route and run right alongside existing routes to Kinmen and Lienchiang counties, which have regular flights to and from Taiwan proper.

China had said in January it was opening routes from west to east — in other words, in the direction of Taiwan — on the two flight paths from Xiamen and Fuzhou, but had not until now announced when they would go into operation.

China’s civil aviation regulator in a statement yesterday said that those routes were now in operation, adding that from May 16 it would “further optimize” airspace around Fuzhou airport.

It did not elaborate, but that is four days before president-elect William Lai (賴清德) is due to be inaugurated.

China’s regulator added that the changes to the flight paths would help meet the “development needs” of flights along the Chinese coast, ensure flight safety, enhance the ability to respond to thunderstorms and improve normal flight operations.

The Civil Aviation Administration said the measure would seriously impact aviation safety in Taiwanese airspace, calling it a unilateral move taken without consultation.

At its nearest point there is only a 1.1 nautical mile (2.04km) distance between the Chinese and Taiwanese flight paths, it said.

“The airspace between the two sides is very small, and there are certain risks,” it added.

Taiwanese air traffic controllers would “strongly request” their Chinese counterparts guide any aircraft away when an aircraft approaches Taiwan’s airspace, it said.

The Ministry of National Defense said that the routes stray too near to restricted airspace and pose potential flight safety risks.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) told reporters that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) stipulates that nations should negotiate with their neighbors regarding new routes.

Despite being an ICAO member, China is flagrantly flouting regulations and casually dismissing civil aviation safety to secure its political agenda, he said.

If flights commence on the routes without any negotiations, there would be no basis for handling possible humanitarian crises, such as needing to make emergency landings due to mechanical failures, he added.

He also said that China is attempting to ramp up political pressure on Taiwan ahead of the May 20 inauguration.

DPP Legislator Puma Shen (沈伯洋) said the flight routes were part of China’s “legal warfare,” and a weak Taiwanese response to the incident has only made it worse.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔) said that the public had been increasingly concerned over China’s antics, as its moves have erased the median line in the Taiwan Strait and is making flying more dangerous.

She urged Beijing not to ignore the concerns of Taiwanese and to resolve the issue with dialogue rather than confrontation.

Additional reporting by Chen Cheng-yu, Lin Che-yuan and CNA

新聞來源:TAIPEI TIMES

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