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US State Department, congressmen slam China over M503 flight route action against Taiwan

Michael McCaul says 'CCP continues to threaten Taiwan and unilaterally change status quo in Taiwan Strait'

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Map showing changes to Chinese civilian flight routes in Taiwan Strait. (X, Damien Symon image)

Map showing changes to Chinese civilian flight routes in Taiwan Strait. (X, Damien Symon image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The U.S. State Department and members of Congress are condemning 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).

In response to a request for comment on the matter from CNA, a U.S. State Department spokesperson expressed concern about reports that Beijing had modified civil aviation routes in the Taiwan Strait without consulting Taiwan. The spokesperson also reiterated the U.S. position that it opposes unilateral changes to the status quo by any party and urged Beijing to stop military, diplomatic, and economic pressure on Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue.

The spokesman also called for issues related to civil aviation and safety in the Taiwan Strait to be resolved through dialogue between the two sides.

China's civil aviation route changes have also aroused the concern of Congress members. Ben Cardin, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Wednesday (Jan. 31) that China's decision to adjust the flight route in the Taiwan Strait is "dangerous and provocative." Cardin said this move is "yet another concerning example of Beijing’s unrelenting efforts to coerce Taipei."

He said that Beijing's action "only serves to heighten security risks, undermine aviation safety, and threaten cross-Strait stability." The congressman called on China to reverse the move and immediately commence talks with Taiwan.

Cardin added, “It is no coincidence that this action is being taken within weeks of a free and fair election in Taiwan, the result of which Beijing had made abundantly clear was not its preferred outcome." Nevertheless, he said that the U.S. remains firm in its commitment to "stand with the people of Taiwan and their right to determine their own future.”

US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul on Thursday (Feb. 1) on X said that with its military aerial maneuvers around Taiwan and shift of civilian flights closer to the median line, "the CCP continues to threaten Taiwan and unilaterally change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait." McCaul then vowed that the U.S. "must stand with Taiwan against this aggression.”

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.

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.

Damien Symon, an open-source intelligence researcher on Thursday uploaded a map showing the proximity of the modified route to the median line and Taiwan's FIR. Symon pointed out that the altered routes now come close to the Air Force's military patrol zones that are meant to serve as strategic buffer zones against People's Liberation Army aircraft.

Symon noted that this shift will make it more difficult for Taiwanese forces to determine whether an aircraft entering restricted airspace is a deliberate military incursion or an error by a civilian pilot.

US State Department, congressmen slam China over M503 flight route action against Taiwan
Map shows proximity of adjusted Chinese flight routes to median line, FIR, and ADIZ. (X, Damien Symon image)