Taiwan to Assert Control Over Airspace as China Launches New Flight Paths

Taiwan asserts control over airspace as China launches new flight paths near its islands, raising safety concerns and potential for international arbitration, amid heightened military tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

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Rafia Tasleem
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Taiwan to Assert Control Over Airspace as China Launches New  Flight Paths

Taiwan to Assert Control Over Airspace as China Launches New Flight Paths

Taiwan will continue exercising its right to control air traffic around its airspace after China unilaterally launched the eastbound W122 and W123 flight paths in the Taiwan Strait, a move that could be vital for potential international arbitration, according to a national security source.

China announced the launch of these flight paths on April 18, 2024, connecting the M503 flight route to the Chinese cities of Fuzhou and Xiamen.

The new flight paths, positioned just 2.8 nautical miles south of the Matsu Islands airspace and 1.1 nautical miles from Kinmen County airspace, have raised concerns about flight safety. Taiwan's Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) expressed that these routes could have serious impacts on air travel safety and called for negotiations between both sides of the Taiwan Strait regarding their use.

Taiwan's air traffic controllers will call out to flights using the W122 and W123 paths to remind them that they should not use those paths without Taiwan's consent. They will also send reminders urging the aircraft not to enter Taiwan's territorial airspace.

These practices aim to counter China's arbitrary launch of the paths and prevent them from becoming an established fact, which would be vital should Taiwan decide to bring the matter to international arbitration.

Why this matters: China's unilateral launch of the new flight paths near Taiwan-controlled islands escalates tensions in the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan's assertion of control over its airspace and push for potential international arbitration could have significant geopolitical implications for the region.

The Ministry of National Defense in Taipei echoed the CAA's concerns about flight safety, and Taiwan's armed forces continue to closely monitor real-time activities in the airspace around the Taiwan Strait.

On Saturday, April 20, 2024, Taiwan's defense ministry reported detecting 21 Chinese military aircraft around the island, with 17 of them crossing the median line and entering Taiwan's air defense identification zone. The ministry said it had dispatched appropriate assets to respond to the Chinese military activities.

Experts suggest the show of force could be related to upcoming military drills between the U.S. and the Philippines near the South China Sea, which China claims in its entirety. The increased military activity around Taiwan is seen as a form of "grey-zone harassment" by China to exhaust Taiwan's armed forces, and it is expected to continue until and beyond the May 20 inauguration of Taiwan's incoming president, Lai Ching-te, who is regarded as a "dangerous separatist" by Beijing.

Key Takeaways

  • Taiwan will continue exercising control over its airspace after China launched new flight paths.
  • The new flight paths near Taiwan-controlled islands raise concerns about flight safety and sovereignty.
  • Taiwan's air traffic controllers will call out flights using the new paths without consent.
  • Taiwan may pursue international arbitration to counter China's unilateral launch of the flight paths.
  • Taiwan detected 21 Chinese military aircraft around the island, escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait.