Taiwan should not make issue of M503: mainland official

China Plus/Xinhua Published: 2018-01-17 23:58:55
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Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office. [Photo: Xinhua]

Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office. [Photo: Xinhua]

Chinese mainland authorities have warned Taiwan authorities against making an issue of the south-to-north operation of the M503 air route to harm the cross-Strait relations.

Ma Xiaoguang, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, made the remarks on Wednesday.

The M503 air route connects east China’s Yangtze River Delta with the Pearl River Delta in the south.

The route, which passes through the air zone above the Taiwan Strait, was put into use in 2015 following negotiations between mainland authorities and Taiwan’s then Ma Ying-jeou administration.

However, only the southbound operation of the route was opened at the time. Most civilian planes flying from Shanghai to Kong Hong, Macao and Southeast Asia currently use the route.

Mainland’s aviation authorities started the northbound operation of the route earlier this month more than 40 days after it informed Taiwan authorities about the plan.

However, the move has drawn a series of verbal protests from the current Taiwan government, including the pro-separation Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen. 

Officials with the island claim the move could harm flight safety and is in violation of the deal reached by the two sides in 2015.

"The mainland started south-to-north operation of the M503 flight route from Jan. 4 this year, which involves no Taiwan flight route or destination and will not affect Taiwan flight safety," Ma Xiaoguang clarified on Wednesday.

"The flight route is located close to the mainland in the Taiwan Strait and in the Shanghai Flight Information Region. The establishment and operation of the M503 route is routine work for the mainland's civil aviation authorities. These are the mainland’s own affairs. It is groundless that the mainland has unilaterally opened the new route,” Ma said.

Ma also suggested that M503’s northbound operation aims to ease air traffic congestion amid growing flights between the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta.

Official data show that the flights from Hong Kong to Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport were delayed by an average of 103 minutes through 2017. Only 46% of the flights were on schedule.

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