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Canada lawmakers urge ICAO to look at China's revised M503 flight path

02/10/2024 05:00 PM
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The International Civil Aviation Organization headquarters in Montreal, Canada. CNA photo Feb. 10, 2024
The International Civil Aviation Organization headquarters in Montreal, Canada. CNA photo Feb. 10, 2024

Toronto, Canada, Feb. 9 (CNA) Members of Canada's parliament have urged the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to pay close attention to China's unilateral move to modify its M503 flight path, calling it a "significant safety issue" in the Taiwan Strait.

The appeal was made in a letter written by more than 20 Canadian lawmakers, led by Judy A. Sgro, chairperson of the Canadian-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group, and sent to Salvatore Sciacchitano, president of the ICAO council.

"We, as members of the Canada-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group, are writing to urgently bring to your attention a significant safety issue in civil aviation across the Taiwan Strait," Sgro said in the letter, dated Feb. 8.

Taiwan's representative to Canada Harry Tseng briefs Canadian lawmakers on Taiwan's Jan. 13 election results and China's recent controversial move regarding the M503 flight path in Ottawa on Feb. 7, 2024. Photo courtesy of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada
Taiwan's representative to Canada Harry Tseng briefs Canadian lawmakers on Taiwan's Jan. 13 election results and China's recent controversial move regarding the M503 flight path in Ottawa on Feb. 7, 2024. Photo courtesy of Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada

China announced on Jan. 30 it would move the north-south M503 flight path back to its original position, as close as 4.2 nautical miles from the median line of the Taiwan Strait, after having "offset" it an additional 6 nautical miles to the west following negotiations with Taiwan in 2015.

China also said it would begin allowing eastbound flights on flight path W122 between Fuzhou and M503 and W123 between Xiamen and M503 beginning on Feb. 1. Westbound traffic on those flight paths had been allowed since 2018.

"The Civil Aviation Administration of China, without holding prior consultations with Taiwan in accordance with ICAO regulations, made a unilateral announcement on Jan. 30, in effect revoking the 2015 cross-strait agreement on the M503, W122 and W123 flight routes," the letter said.

"This not only seriously jeopardizes aviation safety, peace and stability in the region but also undermines the status quo across the Taiwan Strait."

The letter cited ICAO's Air Traffic Services Planning Manual as saying any route network should only be established after consultation with all parties involved.

China's failure to consult with Taiwan's civil aviation authorities in advance constituted a serious violation of ICAO rules, it said.

"We respectfully request that you convey these pressing concerns to the Chinese government and urge them to promptly engage in negotiations with Taiwan regarding the activation of these new flight routes," the letter said.

"It is crucial to ensure aviation safety standards and protect passenger safety."

Commenting on the letter, Taiwan's representative to Canada Harry Tseng (曾厚仁) told CNA that it was rare for a group of Canadian parliamentarians to write such a letter to express their concerns over a single case, signaling its importance.

Tseng said that while Taiwan is not a member of the ICAO, the organization could entertain the concerns of the Canadian lawmakers or at least discuss them internally.

The unilateral changes in the M503 flight path by China have raised concerns throughout the international community, according to Tseng, who said "it was not a clever move" by China.

(By Hu Li-yu and Frances Huang)

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Source: Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada
Source: Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada
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