Taiwan wants to continue talks with China about extra Lunar New Year flights

Two Chinese airlines canceled plans for extra flights in the wake of M503 dispute

A Xiamen Air flight (photo courtesy of BriY YZ)

A Xiamen Air flight (photo courtesy of BriY YZ) (By Wikimedia Commons)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – China blamed Taiwan for the cancellation of plans for extra Lunar New Year flights, but the island’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) said Tuesday it was still willing to talk.

After China unilaterally decided to launch the northbound M503 civil aviation route close to the median line of the Taiwan Strait earlier this month, Taiwan protested, leading to two Chinese airlines canceling plans for 176 extra flights for the February 15-20 holiday.

Transportation Minister Ho Chen Tan (賀陳旦) on Tuesday denied that he was not approving the flights by China Eastern Airlines Corporation and Xiamen Air, the Central News Agency reported. The fact was that the airlines had suspended their applications, not that Taiwan had rejected them, the MOTC said.

Taiwan has said M503 and three new feeder routes from cities along the Chinese coast posed a threat to the island’s national security and to flight safety in general. Military circles fear that the new routes could eventually provide cover for an attack by air force jets.

China Eastern said earlier Tuesday that its decision to cancel 106 extra flights would affect 40,000 potential passengers, many of them Taiwanese business people wanting to spend the holidays at home.

A Chinese airlines association said Taiwan’s use of the M503 issue infringed the right of numerous Taiwanese, so the island would have to bear the consequences of the cancellations itself.