U.S. calls for Taiwan-China talks about M503 flight route

China unilaterally announced new routes on Thursday

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A map of the new routes.

A map of the new routes. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The United States was calling on Taiwan and China to “engage in constructive dialogue” about Beijing’s unilateral decision Thursday to open a route close to the Taiwan Strait median line to northbound flights, a move which triggered angry reactions in Taipei.

Southbound flights already began using the route in 2015 after cross-strait talks, but China’s launch of northbound flights and of three feeder routes from coastal cities came as a surprise, with Taiwan demanding an immediate halt due to safety and security concerns.

According to a report by the Central News Agency, an unnamed U.S. State Department official expressed concern that China “has modified the use of civil aviation flight routes in the Taiwan Strait without consultation with Taiwan authorities,” and said any such issues should be “decided through dialogue between both sides.”

The M503 flight path approaches the median line in the Taiwan Strait by just 7.8 kilometers in some locations, inciting fears that China’s military might eventually abuse the route for its own purposes.

The sudden route opening follows months of incidents when Chinese air force jets fly close by or into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone, escalating fears that the communist country is ramping up preparations to eventually use military force against the island.