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China open to discussions with Taiwan on flight route controversy

Taipei, Jan. 17 (CNA) China said Saturday that it is willing to hold more discussions with Taiwan over China's planned opening of four flight routes just west of the median line of the Taiwan Strait. Ma Xiaoguang (???), spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office under China's State Council, said China would be willing to discuss "technical issues" related to the use of flight route M503 with Taiwan soon. Earlier in the week, Beijing unilaterally announced that it planned to open a new north-south route M503 that hugs the median line of the Taiwan Strait and three east-west routes -- W121, W122 and W123 -- that connect with it, sparking strong opposition in Taiwan. Taiwan has argued that the new flight routes, which China intends to implement from March 5, will create flight risks under abnormal situations such as bad weather conditions. The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said the M503 route was too close to the Taipei Flight Information Region, a key air transportation hub in the West Pacific, while routes W121, W122 and W123 could affect flights between Taiwan and its outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu. Ma reiterated in a statement, however, that the opening of the M503 is a response to the increasing number of flights on the western side of the Taiwan Strait and an attempt at addressing flight congestion. China also has prepared adequate safety measures for the use of M503 to ensure flight safety, Ma said, arguing that the M503 route will not affect the operations of flight routes in neighboring airspace. Chinese civil aviation officials discussed the planned flight routes with their Taiwanese counterparts twice in December, Ma said, and officials on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will soon hold more discussions on the matter. Ma said China hopes Taiwan will fully understand the reasons behind the new flight route plan through further discussion. Taiwan's CAA said in response that no decision has been made on when to hold the discussions. Taiwan's Acting Transportation Minister Chen Jian-yu (???) hoped the two sides will hold frequent discussions on the issue before the new flight routes are set to be implemented in March. He also urged China to shift the planned flight routes further west and closer to China's coastline. Meanwhile, the Legislature's Internal Administration Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Jan. 21 on Taiwan's response measures to China's planned flight routes, with government officials expected to attend to take questions from lawmakers. (By Chou Hui-ying and Elaine Hou)

Updated : 2021-09-17 23:36 GMT+08:00