Taiwan intends to ask the mainland to open air space over the East China Sea for civilian flights as a counter to Beijing's proposal to scrap the median line in the Taiwan Strait to ease air traffic congestion. A senior official with the Straits Exchange Foundation was quoted by the Taipei-based China Times as saying that the island's top negotiating organisation was considering such a request of mainland authorities as a response to what Wang Yi, the director of the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office under the State Council, proposed earlier this month. Mr Wang suggested Taipei should consider abolishing the median line to clear the way for increasing commercial air transport. The senior official, who declined to be named, said the opening of air space over the East China Sea, rather than abolishing the median line in the Taiwan Strait, was the key to addressing the air traffic congestion problem between the mainland and Taiwan that has developed since direct air links were established last year. According to the report, commercial flights between Taipei and Shanghai are now detouring via the Liu Qiu Islands, or Ryukyu Islands, northeast of Taiwan, to avoid militarily sensitive regions on the mainland. The report also quoted mainland officials as saying that the chances of opening air space over the East China Sea to civilian airlines were slim. One of them added that such a move might violate areas used for training exercises by the People's Liberation Army. The source admitted military security was the main concern for both Beijing and Taipei. In response to Mr Wang's suggestion, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou emphasised on July 2 that the island would not scrap the median line. Taipei-based political commentator Wang Hsing-ching, who is better known by his pseudonym Nanfang Shuo, recalled yesterday that the median line in the Taiwan Strait had been set by the United States when its Seventh Fleet was deployed in the region during the Korean war in the 1950s. 'With the rapid expansion of the PLA's navy and air force in recent years, the abandonment of the median line would undoubtedly provide them with much larger space for their activities, in addition to solving the civilian aircraft's congestion problems,' he said. 'To scrap the line or not is not up to Taipei only, but more importantly, this must be decided by the US too. In my opinion, Beijing wanted to send a message to Washington, rather than merely urging the island to abolish the border line.' From this perspective, Wang Hsing-ching said it seemed ridiculous for Taipei to make such a response, which seemed to be an attempt to justify its own refusal to scrap the median line. 'After all, the East China Sea areas covered by the newly proposed air route are so crucial to the mainland's national security that they wouldn't budge an inch on it by any means.'