Implementation of the M503 flight route over the Taiwan Strait is part of a plan by the Chinese government with long-term strategic and political objectives, said a Taiwanese defector to China who had risen to become a senior air force officer in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Huang Chih-cheng (黃植誠), a former Taiwanese air force pilot who defected in 1981, said in an interview with the Chinese-language China Times on Friday that the M503 flight route was part of an overall military and regional strategic framework by the Chinese government.
Huang was quoted as saying that China’s putting M503 into operation has two main objectives. The first pertains to its military strategy, with the flight route being a follow-up to China’s implementation of the air defense identification zone in the East China Sea in November 2013, both of which aim to deter US military involvement in the region.
The second objective is political in nature, Huang said, with the M503 flight route to allow political maneuvering and bargaining with Taiwan if the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) emerges victorious in next year’s elections and decides not to recognize the so-called “1992 consensus.”
The “1992 consensus” is a term coined by former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) that refers to a tacit understanding between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese government that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is “one China,” with each party having its own interpretation of what “China” means.
Huang said the situation across the Taiwan Strait is now peaceful and stable, and China is actively promoting an atmosphere of friendly political dialogue, and is unlikely to make sudden moves that would threaten Taiwan at the moment, according to the China Times interview, which took place in China.
Huang rose to become a major general in the PLA before retiring in 2010, and served as deputy chief of staff for the PLA Air Force Command’s Beijing Military Region.
Born in Taiwan in 1952 to parents from Guanxi in southern China, Huang graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1973.
Huang piloted a US-made F-5 fighter jet from a Taoyuan air base and defected by crossing the Strait and landing at an airport in Fuzhou, in China’s Fujian Province, on Aug. 8, 1981.
After retiring, Huang has remained active in promoting the “unification” of Taiwan with China, and is one of the leading members for connecting with “Taiwanese compatriots” in the Chinese government’s political consultative body.
If Huang’s assessment of the military and political objectives represents the true perspective and design of the PLA’s senior echelon officials, then it repudiates recent pronouncements by top Taiwanese government and military officials, who have tried to convince the public that the new flight plan poses relatively little risk.
Over the past week, Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國), Mainland Affairs Council Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言), National Security Bureau Director-General Lee Shying-jow (李翔宙) and other senior officials have delivered statements that Taiwan’s sovereignty and security would not be threatened by M503.
Opposition party members and critics have denounced China’s unilateral announcement in January, saying that operation of the flight route could endanger national security and enable the PLA Air Force to increase patrols near the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which would reduce warning time available to Taiwanese air defenses.
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