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Faced with China flight path moves, Taiwan to stay the course: Source

04/20/2024 09:21 PM
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Taipei, April 20 (CNA) Taiwan will continue exercising its right to control air traffic around its airspace after China unilaterally launched two flight paths in the Taiwan Strait, a key move should the issue undergo international arbitration, a national security source has said.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China announced late on April 18 that it would launch the eastbound W122 and W123 flight paths connecting the M503 flight route, which runs north-south down the middle of the Taiwan Strait, to the Chinese cities of Fuzhou and Xiamen, respectively.

The move came after China on Feb. 1 unilaterally canceled an offset along the M503 flight path, which it launched in 2015 without consultations with Taiwan.

The "offset" refers to an agreement reached between Taipei and Beijing in 2015 to move the M503 path 11 kilometers to the west of its original location, which came as close as 7.8 kilometers to the median line of the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan's Civil Aviation Administration has expressed concern over the W122 and W123 flight paths jeopardizing flight safety given their close proximity to the Taiwan-controlled Kinmen and Matsu islands, though westbound traffic on those flight paths has been allowed since 2018.

There are dozens of domestic flights operated daily between the island of Taiwan and airports in Kinmen and Matsu, which both just lie off the coast of the Chinese province of Fujian.

According to the source, in addition to lodging protests through appropriate channels, Taiwan's air traffic controllers will call out to flights using the W122 and W123 paths to remind them that they should not use those paths without first gaining the consent of Taiwan through negotiations.

In addition, the source said, a reminder will also be sent to urge the aircraft not to enter Taiwan's territorial airspace.

Although these reminders will not steer the planes away from their paths, such practices serve to counter China's arbitrary launch of the paths and prevent the paths from becoming a fait accompli, they said.

This would be crucial should Taiwan decide to bring the matter to an international arbitration court.

These practices can find a parallel in Japan's documenting and announcing instances of Chinese planes or ships passing by waters off the Senkaku Islands almost daily, which are meant to highlight the Japanese government's continued exercising of its right over the disputed islands.

Taiwan could consider documenting and announcing instances involving Chinese planes that use W122 and W123, which would be "dealing with uncivilized behavior civilly," the source said.

(By Wen Kuei-hsiang and Sean Lin)

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