Beijing doesn’t need Taipei’s permission to open Taiwan Strait air routes, official says

New route cleared by International Civil Aviation Organisation, island should not make a fuss, Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman says

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 12:19pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 January, 2018, 11:14pm

China’s mainland does not need Taiwan’s permission to open new air routes, Beijing said on Wednesday after Taipei complained that a new route over the Taiwan Strait that separates the two was a security and safety risk.

Beijing has taken an increasingly hostile stance towards Taipei since the election two years ago of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

Tsai said earlier this month that the opening of the air route, which runs close to two groups of Taiwan-controlled island groups off the Chinese coast, was an irresponsible act that threatened regional security and affected aviation safety.

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Taiwan said this month’s opening of the northbound M503 route over the Taiwan Strait was done without telling the island, contravening what the democratic government in Taipei said is a 2015 deal to first discuss such flight paths.

Speaking at a regular news briefing in Beijing, Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office, denied breaking the 2015 agreement and said Taiwan had been informed the route would be opening.

“But this does not mean that opening air routes needs Taiwan’s agreement,” he said.

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There would be no impact on aviation safety for Taiwan, Ma said, adding that the route was needed to alleviate pressure on busy routes over southeastern China between Hong Kong and Shanghai.

The route was approved by the International Civil Aviation Organisation scientifically and professionally, he said.

“We should believe in science, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation,” Ma said.

Taiwan should have a correct view of the matter and stop looking for opportunities to make a fuss, he said.

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Beijing considers Taiwan a wayward province, and broke off official communication with the island’s government after Tsai took office in 2016.

Beijing suspects Tsai wants to push for formal independence, though she said she wanted to maintain the status quo with the mainland and was committed to ensuring peace.

China’s mainland has in recent months stepped up its military drills around Taiwan, alarming Taipei. It says the exercises are routine, but that it will not tolerate any attempt by the island to declare independence.