China announces activation of new aviation routes near Taiwan's restricted airspace

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
6 Min Read

The Civil Aviation Administration of China recently announced the launch of new air routes to the cities of Xiamen and Fuzhou, which lie close to the Taiwan-controlled islands of Kinmen and Matsu, Taiwan News reported.

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The development, disclosed on Friday, April 19, is linked to the controversial M503 flight path, which crosses the sensitive median line in the Taiwan Strait, an area of ​​long-standing informal demarcation between Taiwan and China, traditionally disputed by both sides. Avoids fighter planes.

Additionally, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) spokesperson Chien Chih-hung said in February that China's “unilateral activation” of the W122 and W123 routes “will have a huge impact on the flight safety of Kinmen and Matsu”, according to Taiwan News. Said citing RTI.

Earlier, Chien had said that flights operated only in the westbound direction, allowing coordination and ensuring flight route safety. Chien said the eastbound flights would “impact Taiwan's existing air routes, raising major concerns about flight safety risks.”

According to Taiwan News, Damien Simon, an open-source intelligence researcher, uploaded a map on February 1, showing the proximity of the revised route to the center line and Taiwan's FIR.

Simon emphasized that the changed routes come closer to the Air Force's military patrol areas, which are meant to serve as strategic buffer zones against People's Liberation Army aircraft.

Regarding the announcement, CAAC said that eastbound W122 and W123 routes will connect to the M503 flight path. According to Taiwan News, on May 16, the arrival and departure airspace at Fuzhou Changle International Airport will be “further optimized and Will be adjusted. ,

The administration later claimed it was “optimizing the airspace in Fujian Province” and adjusting the operation of the M503 route and its connecting flight paths to meet the “development needs” of aviation transportation between the Yangtze River Delta and Guangdong-Hong. Will be favourable. Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, as well as the southeastern coastal areas.

The stated purpose of these adjustments is to streamline operating conditions, prioritize flight safety, strengthen preparations for hurricane season, enhance flight punctuality, and meet passenger travel requirements.

CAAC announced in January that from February 1, flight “offset measurement” for route M503, which operates from north to south, would be cancelled, meaning Chinese flights flying south over the Taiwan Strait would be forced to cross the midline. And will come closer to Taiwan's flight information area. FIR).

CAAC also plans to enable eastbound routes W122 and W123 to “improve the efficiency of airfield operations”. These routes connect the M503 to Fuzhou and Xiamen.

Meanwhile, Taiwan has tracked Chinese military aircraft 136 times and naval ships 98 times this month.

Since September 2020, China has increased its use of gray zone tactics by increasing the number of military aircraft and naval ships operating around Taiwan.

Gray zone strategy is defined as “a series of efforts or efforts beyond steady-state deterrence and reassurance that attempt to achieve one's security objectives without resorting to the direct and large use of force.”

After this, tension is at its peak in the dispute between Taiwan and China regarding the water around Kinmen.

Taiwan News reported in March that China had been repeatedly encroaching into the waters around Taiwan-occupied Kinmen

According to Taiwan news reports in February, boundaries for Kinmen Island were set by Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense in 1992.

Although Beijing does not recognize Taiwan's territorial claims (as it claims Taiwan as its own territory), Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) argues that China has tacitly observed the boundaries, e.g. To reject them now is a change in the status quo.

According to the Taiwan Coast Guard Administration, the term “prohibited waters” refers to territorial waters, which extend up to 12 nautical miles around Taiwan and to varying distances around Taiwan's outlying islands.

“Restricted waters” refers to a contiguous zone used by states to enhance their law enforcement capacity in the area immediately outside their territorial sea. This contiguous zone extends for 24 nautical miles around Taiwan and to varying distances around Taiwan's outlying islands.

Taiwan News revealed in its article published in February that Taiwan authorizes its coast guard to search and seize foreign ships entering the country's prohibited waters.

Under existing protocols, the coast guard is authorized to search and seize foreign boats that continue to operate in Taiwan's restricted waters after being warned twice to leave the area.

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