Monday, 17 December, 2018

Taiwan holds live-fire drills as China tensions mount

Taiwan holds live-fire drills as China tensions mount Taiwan holds live-fire drills as China tensions mount
Melinda Barton | 30 January, 2018, 19:02

After China unilaterally chose to launch the northbound M503 civil aviation route close to the median line of the Taiwan Strait earlier this month, Taiwan protested, leading to two Chinese airlines canceling plans for 176 extra flights for the February 15-20 holiday.

Taiwanese stranded in mainland China can also go to the coastal city of Xiamen and board ferries to Kinmen, a Taiwanese outpost less than 2 kilometers off the mainland, and fly to Taipei or other cities on domestic flights operated by China Airlines, Taiwan's flag carrier, as well as EVA Air.

Taiwan's military is set to ferry or airlift people back home to the island from mainland China for the upcoming Lunar New Year, after Taipei denied Chinese airlines' requests for additional cross-Strait flights.

"At this time, they said themselves they don't want to apply".

China Eastern said earlier Tuesday that its decision to cancel 106 extra flights would affect 40,000 potential passengers, many of them Taiwanese business people wanting to spend the holidays at home.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) said the ministry did not say that it would not approve the airlines' requests, adding that it had hoped the matter would be resolved through bilateral discussions on relevant issues.

The government would also appeal to the worldwide community for support on the matter, he added.

Taiwan troops staged live-fire exercises January 30 to simulate fending off an invasion, as the island's main threat China steps up pressure on President Tsai Ing-wen and a row over airline routes escalated. China Eastern called on Taiwan to "normalize the development of the cross-Straits civil aviation sector as soon as possible".

While not specifying that the drill simulated an invasion by mainland China, the authorities said the exercise was to "show determination to safeguard peace in the Taiwan Strait and national security". "It's not at all that we said we didn't agree for them to apply", Ho added.

It also stipulated that flights deviating from designated routes due to inclement weather or other reasons should always turn right, per customary practice in the worldwide community, Lin added.