Concern over Taiwan Strait flight routes

ON Jan 4, the ROC (Republic of China) government protested mainland China's unilateral launch, on the same day of the northbound M503 flight route in the Taiwan Strait and the W121, W122, and W123 east-west extension routes.

Mainland China initiated these four routes without prior communication with Taiwan and began flights the same day. Taiwan believes this action violates the negotiation results reached between Taipei Airlines Association and China Air Transport Association in March 2015, when mainland China repeatedly pledged to use the M503 route only for one-way southbound flights, and not to activate the W flight routes until after confirmation through further negotiations.

The unilateral launch of these routes also runs counter to international civil aviation regulations, disregards aviation safety, and disrespects Taiwan. The ROC government calls on all parties not to use these flight routes as serious safety concerns remain.

On Jan 7, ROC President Tsai Ing-wen convened a meeting of the National Security Council to review developments in East Asia including the situation with North Korea, tensions throughout the region and Beijing's one-sided launch of these flight routes.

Following the meeting, Tsai issued the following points:

» The unilateral launch of controversial aviation routes is a provocation impacting regional security. The activation of these contentious routes has not only severely influenced regional security and flight safety, but constitutes a political and military threat to Taiwan, and as such destabilises the region. As a member of the regional community, mainland China has a duty to preserve regional stability, and such actions are irresponsible.

» Taiwan will continue to strengthen its national security, minimise the risks to national security while maximising regional cooperation in the face of regional challenges and tension-raising developments.

» Taiwan will defend the nation's core values of freedom and democracy. The ROC military will bolster its ability to monitor and respond to mainland China's military manoeuvring.

» Taiwan will communicate fully with the international community. The launch of controversial flight routes without prior negotiation by the Beijing authorities endangers aviation safety and upsets the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.

» Beijing should fulfil its responsibilities to the region and resume negotiations with Taiwan promptly.
To resolve the negative impact of this move on regional stability, aviation safety, and cross-strait relations, Taiwan is ready to act responsibly and cooperatively. Taiwan calls on Beijing authorities to cherish hard-won peaceful and stable cross-strait relations.

Liu Bang-Chuan
Senior Adviser
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Malaysia