Lawmakers denounce China’s air routes

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Jan 06, 2018 - Page 1

Lawmakers across party lines yesterday denounced China’s unilateral decision to launch four air routes close to the median line of the Taiwan Strait, saying that the move blithely disregarded aviation safety and would not help to promote peace across the Taiwan Strait.

“China, as a superpower, should at least try to be civilized in its actions and show a basic level of respect for international rules,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang Ding-yu (王定宇) said.

“The launch of any air route cannot be unilaterally decided by one nation, let alone in the Taiwan Strait, where traffic is extremely busy,” Wang said.

China’s launch of the northbound M503 route, which passes just 7.8km west of the median line, would definitely shorten the response time the air force has during an emergency, escalating tensions, he said.

Wang called on the authorities to inform the International Civil Aviation Organization and urged aircraft operators not to use the routes due to the danger they pose.

The administration of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in 2015 reached an agreement with Beijing to allow only southbound flights on M503, but the agreement has had serious repercussions, as evidenced by China imposing on Taiwan its decision to launch four more routes, he said.

This demonstrates that it is useless to sign agreements with China, because Beijing tears them up on a whim, he added.

The incident is not just a cross-strait issue, but an international one, because China could arbitrarily decide to launch an air route elsewhere in the world, Wang said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus secretary-general Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) said that China’s abrupt move does not help to further cross-strait relations, as the launch of the air routes suggests hostility.

Relevant agencies should inform international civil aviation regulators of the risks accompanying the routes — such as their proximity to two existing routes — and advocate against their use, as accidents are the last thing anybody wants, he added.

“It was simply outrageous and a blatant challenge to the nation’s sovereignty,” New Power Party (NPP) Executive Chairman Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) said.

China was not so blatant when it delineated an air route during Ma’s term, Huang said, adding that the NPP condemns the move in the strongest possible terms and believes that relevant agencies should file a stern protest with Beijing.

People First Party caucus whip Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) said that while China’s move was undoubtedly reproachable, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) should establish a communication channel with Beijing, as the “status quo” cannot be improved with “all reprehension and no communication.”