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Updated January 31st, 2024 at 16:15 IST

Taiwan Fumes Over China's Unilateral Shift in Flight Routes

The controversy stems from the longstanding dispute over the self-governing island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own despite never having controlled it.

Reported by: Sagar Kar
Taiwanese flag
Taiwanese flag | Image:Unsplash
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Tensions simmered across the Taiwan Strait this week as China announced a unilateral change to civil aviation flight routes, bringing civilian aircraft closer to the sensitive median line that divides the two sides. The move drew swift condemnation from Taiwan, raising concerns about aviation safety and Beijing's possible military motives.

China's Civil Aviation Administration stated Tuesday it would discontinue a six-nautical-mile "veer-off" measure for southbound flights on the M503 route, which runs near the median line. This effectively allows planes to fly directly on the original path, edging closer to the unofficial border and the Taipei Flight Information Region. Furthermore, China will begin operating on two additional routes connecting M503 with mainland cities, potentially impacting the safety of Taiwanese civilian flights to and from nearby islands.

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How has Taiwan responded?

According to a report from CNN News, Taiwan's Civil Aviation Administration responded with firm opposition, "deeply regretting and firmly protesting" the decision. The Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan's top China policy body, termed the move a "blatant neglect of aviation safety and a show of disrespect for Taiwan."

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In a scathing statement, the MAC accused China of masking "ill political and possibly military motive against Taiwan" under the guise of civil aviation, potentially altering the fragile status quo.

Here is what you need to know

The controversy stems from the longstanding dispute over the self-governing island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own despite never having controlled it. Beijing has increasingly pressured Taiwan through military exercises, diplomatic isolation, and now, it appears, through seemingly innocuous flight paths.

While China insists the revised routes are purely for streamlining airspace management, Taiwan and international observers remain wary. The change comes amid heightened tensions following China's increased military activities near Taiwan and ongoing concerns about Beijing's future intentions toward the island.

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As the situation unfolds, one thing is clear: the seemingly mundane issue of flight paths has become another flashpoint in the complex and increasingly delicate relationship between China and Taiwan. 

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Published January 31st, 2024 at 16:15 IST

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