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Canadian lawmakers blast China's alteration of flight routes

More than 20 parliamentarians call on ICAO to respond to Bejing's unilateral decison

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File photo of China Airlines Boeing 737-8AL/WL. (Flickr, dreamcatcher-68 photo)

File photo of China Airlines Boeing 737-8AL/WL. (Flickr, dreamcatcher-68 photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — More than 20 Canadian lawmakers urged the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to address China’s unilateral modification of flight routes in a letter published on Thursday (Feb. 8).

Drafted by Canada-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group Chair Judy Sgro, the letter demanded ICAO head Salvatore Sciacchitano to respond to China changing its M503, W121, W122, and W123 flight routes without prior consultations with Taiwan, CNA reported.

"This not only seriously jeopardizes aviation safety, peace and stability in the region but also undermines the status quo across the Taiwan Strait," the parliamentarians said. They requested Sciacchitano to “convey these pressing concerns” to Beijing and to encourage China to engage in dialogue with Taiwan on this matter.

"It is crucial to ensure aviation safety standards and protect passenger safety," the letter said.

Taiwan Representative to Canada Harry Tseng (曾厚仁) said such an urgent letter was quite rare.

China's Civil Aviation Administration announced that effective Feb. 1, the flight "offset measure" for its M503 route, which operates from north to south, will be canceled. Chinese flights flying southbound over the Taiwan Strait would now be closer to the median line, Taiwan's flight information region, and air defense identification zone.

The CAAC also said it would allow its W122 and W123 routes to run eastward to "improve the efficiency of airspace operations."

Since China’s announcement, the U.S. and France have also criticized the move.

A U.S. Department of State spokesperson expressed concern about the changes without consulting Taiwan. They 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.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Ben Cardin said Beijing's action "only serves to heighten security risks, undermine aviation safety, and threaten cross-Strait stability." He called on China to cancel its decision and immediately begin talks with Taiwan.

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said France opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo and threats and military force to achieve change. France values the freedom of navigation and overflight, Sejourne added.