On January 4, China announced four new flight routes that approach the median line of the Taiwan Strait. Among them, M503 is only 4.2 nautical miles from the median line. In bad weather, the three other routes could pose a threat to aviation safety as they overlap with other flight paths between Taiwan and offshore islands near the coast of mainland China.
Despite opposition from Taiwan’s aviation authorities, four airline operators had already used M503 following the announcement. The four commercial airlines are: China Eastern, Xiamen Air, Cathay Dragon, and Hong Kong Airlines.
President Tsai Ing-wen said China’s unilateral moves are not conducive to regional stability. Tsai also called for global support for cross-strait consultations.
Political analyst Su Tzu-yun said the biggest impact of China’s using M503 on Taiwan is that the government will have difficulty in making a quick judgment as to whether aircraft using M503 is military or civilian. Su said the flight path has been part of China’s legal war, and the government must come up with a new framework to cope with the issue.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s military said China’s announcement signals that the rising power wants to “call the shots.” The military said the move does put pressure on Taiwan’s armed forces, but the best policy is to “save military power and not to dance to China’s tune.”