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CAA rejects China's accusation in M503 dispute

2018/01/19 23:51:30

CNA file photo

Taipei, Jan. 19 (CNA) Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) on Friday expressed "strong regret" over China's condemnation of Taiwan's move to put extra Lunar New Year cross-strait flights on hold amid a dispute over the controversial M503 route.

In a statement on its official website, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) "condemned" Taiwan's move to delay approval of applications by two China-based airlines to operate extra flights in protest of China's decision to launch a northbound M503 route.

The M503 route and its extension routes were approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and have "no safety concerns," it said.

It also contended that Taiwan's act of "revenge against China" will eventually hurt airlines and people from both sides of the Taiwan Strait -- and the rights of Taiwanese people in particular -- and that "the Taiwanese authority should take full responsibility for all the consequences."

The CAA responded Friday night with a statement titled "If there is no trust and no aviation safety, what's the point of talking about the rights of Taiwanese business people?"

The CAA urged China to start negotiations with Taiwan as soon as possible, in line with an agreement reached by the two sides in 2015.

Beijing was criticized internationally when it first unveiled the M503 southbound route in 2015, and it further angered Taiwan on Jan. 4, 2018 when it unilaterally announced the launch of the M503 northbound route without consulting Taiwan.

The route is only 4.2 nautical miles, or approximately 7.8 km, from the median line of the Taiwan Strait, at its nearest point.

Three Chinese east-west extension routes also introduced on Jan. 4, designated W121, W122 and W123, now overlap with Taiwan's W6, W8 and W2 flight routes serving the outlying islands of Matsu and Kinmen, raising aviation safety concerns.

The CAA said Thursday it has put on hold applications by China Eastern and Xiamen Air to fly a total of 176 additional cross-strait flights during the holiday period from Feb. 15-20, in response to China's launch of the M503 route, which Taiwan considers a threat to aviation safety.

Also on Friday, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) condemned Beijing's move, reiterating that its unilateral announcement has not only affected aviation safety but also hurt the stability of the region, according to Presidential Office spokesman Sidney Lin (林鶴明).

(By Lee Hsin-Yin and Ko Lin)