China's handling of controversial flight routes key to ties: MAC

2018/01/29 17:19:45 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
China's handling of controversial flight routes key to ties: MAC

Taipei, Jan. 29 (CNA) Taiwan urged Beijing on Monday to hold talks with Taipei on China's controversial new flight routes in the Taiwan Strait, saying that how China handles the issue will show whether it cares about what people think in Taiwan.

"We would like to remind [Beijing], whether the controversy over the M503 route can be brought to a satisfactory end is a test of how much it values Taiwan's public opinion," said Mainland Affairs Council chief Chang Hsiao-yueh (張小月) at the council's year-end press conference Monday.

Chang issued the call in response to China's unilateral decision on Jan. 4 to open not only a northbound M503 route in the Taiwan Strait but also three east-west extension routes designated W121, W122 and W123.

Taiwan has also withheld approval of applications by two China-based airlines to operate additional cross-strait flights during the Lunar New Year holiday as a way of pressuring China to hold talks on the flight routes, but Beijing has yet to react.

Chang said that how China reacts to the government's request would influence how people in Taiwan perceive cross-strait relations.

"Beijing should never underestimate the impact of this issue," she said.

Taiwan's government objected to the opening of the M503 route close to the median line of the Taiwan Strait because of aviation safety and national security concerns.

The decision to shelve applications by China Eastern and Xiamen Air for additional holiday flights was the "mildest" response, Chang said when fielding questions from reporters.

Taiwan has demonstrated self-restraint in the operation of the new flight routes, and its response was supported by a majority of people of Taiwan and by regional partners, Chang said.

"It's an issue that implicates aviation safety and national security. There is no room for Taiwan to cave in," she said. "The ball is in [China's] court."

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)
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