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Taiwan on full alert as China launches test flights on new route

Taiwan on full alert as China launches test flights on new route

Taipei, March 15 (CNA) Taiwan was on full alert Sunday as China began a series of test flights along a controversial new commercial route close to the median line in the Taiwan Strait, a government spokesman said. Cabinet spokesman Sun Lih-chyun (???) said that Beijing had notified Taiwan ahead of time that it planned to begin the test flights at 11 a.m. Sunday, therefore, all the relevant authorities in Taiwan had been informed and were fully prepared. "The Cabinet instructed all the agencies concerned to be in full readiness to respond," he said. Meanwhile, the defense ministry said that Taiwan's military is maintaining its regular operations in the air space. The military is confident that it can efficiently monitor any aircraft flying in the Taiwan Strait, said Defense Ministry spokesman Lou Shou-he (???). On Sunday morning, China began test flights along Route M503, a north-south commercial flight path that it has designated close to the median line of the strait. Before the launch of the test flights, however, Taiwan and China had both verified with each other all technical details, including the readiness of radar and automatic communication systems, and the flights proceeded with full oversight on Taiwan's part, according to Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council. It said China will brief Taiwan on the test results, and the two sides will discuss a date for the formal inauguration of the M503 route. In January, Beijing unilaterally announced plans to open four new flight paths over southeast Chinese airspace, including the M503, which was originally designated to run 4.2 nautical miles west of the median line of the Taiwan Strait. China had planned to begin commercial flights along the route on March 5 to meet growing demand among Chinese travelers but it delayed the time after Taiwan voiced strong opposition on the basis of security and safety concerns,. Taiwan's concern was that the proposed east-west flight paths linked to M503 were precariously close to the routes flown by aircraft traveling to its outlying counties of Kinmen and Matsu. China subsequently moved Route M503 six nautical miles further west, or 10.2 nautical miles (18.89 kilometers) west of the median line of the Taiwan Strait. It also promised to allow only south-bound flights along this route and to suspend the idea of the new east-west routes for the time being. (By Tang Pei-chun, Wang Shu-fen, Kelven Huang, Kuo Chung-han, Flor Wang and Elizabeth Hsu)


Updated : 2021-09-18 04:25 GMT+08:00