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  • Providing flight plans to China simply for safety: minister

    Taipei, Nov. 27 (CNA) Taiwan's commercial airlines have notified China before their planes fly over its newly declared air defense identification zone (ADIZ) simply out of safety concerns, Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih said Wednesday.

    "Major Taiwanese airlines are submitting flight plans to mainland China's civil aviation agency, which is then passing them on to Chinese military authorities," Yeh said on the sidelines of a hearing of the Legislative Yuan's Transportation Committee.

    Yeh said Philippine and Singaporean airlines have also done so as commercial airlines around the world tend to follow the regulations of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

    According to statistics released by Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), Taiwan needs to submit flight plans to China for about 100 flights per day that fly northward from the Taipei Flight Information Region.

    China claimed the right on Nov. 23 to identify, monitor and possibly take military action against aircraft that entered its newly demarcated ADIZ in the East China Sea, which covers the disputed Diaoyutai Islands.

    Many countries called the Chinese move provocative and destabilizing, with the United States warning that China's claim "constitutes an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea."

    Yeh defended the decision to file flight plans with China against critics who said Taiwan was yielding its sovereignty over the islands, noting that even Japanese airlines had submitted flight plans to China immediately after the new ADIZ was announced.

    But Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has ordered its carriers to stop doing so, and South Korea has also said its carriers would not inform China when flying over the new ADIZ area.

    Yeh contended Wednesday that the ADIZ designation did not involve air space or territorial sovereignty.

    "Our airlines' observation of Beijing's new requirement is mainly aimed at ensuring flight safety," Yeh said, adding that one of his ministry's priority tasks is to protect aviation safety.

    Fielding questions from opposition Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Chi-chang on whether Taiwan would follow Japan and South Korea's examples, Yeh said his ministry will abide by the National Security Council's decision.

    "The council will make an overall review in terms of our country's long-term strategic interests," Yeh said, adding that the MOTC will respect the council's directive.

    Arguing that the ADIZ has nothing to do with national sovereignty, Yeh said Chinese airline companies have also furnished flight plans to Taiwan and that issuing flight plans to various countries could help guarantee flight safety.

    The uninhabited Diaoyutai Islands, located some 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, have been under Japan's administrative control since 1972, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.

    Though Taiwan has asked its airlines to report flights through the new ADIZ to China, Beijing's announcement raised serious concerns here.

    Taiwan's National Security Council issued a statement last weekend reaffirming Taiwan's sovereignty over the island chain and asking all parties concerned to prevent an escalation in tensions in the region.

    President Ma Ying-jeou argued Tuesday that China's ADIZ designation does not involve air space or territorial sovereignty, but he added that Taiwan will express its serious concerns to China and other parties.

    China's ADIZ has a small overlap with Taiwan's own identification zone but will have no impact on the ability of Taiwan's armed forces to conduct exercises, Ma said.

    Taiwan's serious concerns, to be conveyed to China and other countries, will be based on his East China Sea peace initiative, he added.

    The principles outlined in the initiative include the shelving of territorial disputes, self-restraint from all parties concerned and the peaceful resolution of differences.

    (By Wen Kui-hsiang and Sofia Wu)