TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taipei on Tuesday (Jan 30) protested China's unilateral alteration of three flight routes to come closer to the Taiwan Strait median line, Taiwan's Flight Information Region (FIR), and the country's air defense identification zone (ADIZ).
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) announced that effective Feb. 1 the flight "offset measure" for route M503 operating from north to south will be canceled. This means that Chinese flights flying southbound over the Taiwan Strait will now come closer to the edge of the median line, Taiwan's FIR, and ADIZ, reported CNA.
In addition, the CAAC said it also plans to enable W122 and W123 routes to run eastward to "improve the efficiency of airspace operations." These routes link route M503 with the Chinese cities of Fuzhou and Xiamen.
Taiwan's Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) responded by saying it "deeply regretted and strongly protested" China's unilateral action, according to CNA. The CAA said due to China's measures, there was a "significant gap in the communication results between the two parties" compared to when the M503 route was launched in 2015.
The CAA said it will conduct further evaluations and discussions with relevant authorities about the possible impacts before releasing its findings to the public.
The M503 route was an international civil aviation route unilaterally decided by China in the Shanghai Flight Information Region on the west side of the Taiwan Strait median line in early 2015. However, Taiwan protested because of its proximity to the median line and sensitive air space, reducing the country's air defense warning lead time.
Following talks with Taiwan, China agreed to shift route M503 11 km (6 NM) to the west of its original course. Now that Beijing has moved the route east again, the Mainland Affairs Council also issued a statement expressing its "strong protest and deep dissatisfaction," and demanded that China "immediately cease such irresponsible flight operations."
Map shows new locations of M503, W122, and W123 routes. (CAA image)