Beijing intensifies airspace pressure on Taiwan with new civilian routes

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28th February 2024 – (Beijing) Beijing is preparing to intensify its airspace activity over the Taiwan Strait by inaugurating additional civilian flight paths—moves that experts believe could challenge Taiwan’s air defence capabilities. This development is unfolding against a backdrop of increased Sino-Taiwanese tensions exacerbated by the recent fatal incident involving two Chinese fishermen and the Taiwanese coastguard.

Officials announced that the freshly charted air routes are expansions of the M503 path, a pre-existing aviation corridor that has sparked controversy due to its proximity to the median line—an unofficial boundary in the strait that functions as a buffer between China and Taiwan.

Zhu Fenglian, a spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, affirmed on Wednesday that the routes would be operational posthaste. The strategic significance of these routes lies in their potential to compel Taiwanese air defence systems to differentiate between civilian and military aircraft continually, thereby straining resources and reducing reaction times to genuine threats.

Chieh Chung, a senior analyst at the National Policy Foundation linked to Taiwan’s Kuomintang party, noted the proximity of the M503 to the median line, being a mere 7.8 kilometres away at its nearest point. He emphasised that the new routes would enable mainland planes to overstep the median line more easily, posing a pressing concern for Taiwan’s military readiness.