Sat, Jul 04, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan will not open median line: Ma

SAFETY FIRST Senior government officials said Taiwan could not agree to flights routed directly across the Taiwan Strait because of national security concerns

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan will not open the median line of the Taiwan Strait to air traffic because the area is used for training by the country’s air force, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said on Thursday.

At present, direct flights between Taiwan and China are routed over the East China Sea and South China Sea rather than directly across the Taiwan Strait.

“We have told [Beijing] very clearly before that we will not open the median line. We are not trying to make things difficult. It’s about national security,” Ma said on Thursday in Panama City at a gathering with Taiwanese reporters during his trip to Central America.

Ma made the remarks in response to a call by Wang Yi (王毅) the director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, that Taiwan open the median line because of increasing numbers of direct cross-strait flights.

As to the establishment of a military mutual trust mechanism, Ma said such a framework could be forged only after the signing of a peace agreement with China.

“While the two sides indeed have to strike a cross-strait peace pact, we believe it’s not an issue of great urgency at the moment,” Ma said.

Ma said the government would focus its efforts on the negotiation of an economic cooperation framework agreement.

“What’s more urgent at the moment is to solve the issues that matter more to the public. Normalizing cross-strait economic relations, for example, is very important to Taiwan,” Ma said.

When asked whether he would meet Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in his capacity as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman, Ma said he had no immediate plans to meet Hu. It would be better for leaders across the Taiwan Strait to meet after the two sides have found solutions to certain fundamental issues, he said.

Ma is expected to take over the KMT chairmanship after an election on July 26.

Senior officials accompanying Ma on his trip said Taiwan could not agree to flights routed directly across the Taiwan Strait because of national security concerns.

“China reserves 90 percent of its airspace for military training, while we only have the airspace on our side of the Taiwan Strait meridian,” said one official, adding that Taiwan could not afford to budge on this issue.

Noting that both Taiwan and the US are concerned about regional security in the Taiwan Strait, the official said steadiness was more important than speed in cross-strait development at this stage.

In Taipei, Democratic Progressive Party acting spokesman Chuang Suo-hang (莊碩漢) said if Taiwan opened the middle line of the Strait to China, Taiwan’s defense would collapse, adding that the proposal raised by Beijing was unthinkable.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RICH CHANG AND CNA

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