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July 23, 2017

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Defense ministry opposed to flights across Taiwan Strait middle line

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Ministry of National Defense expressed opposition Monday to Beijing's call for Taiwan to open the center line of the Taiwan Strait to accommodate more flights.

The Office of Military Spokesman said the line of demarcation in the Taiwan Strait is of critical importance to Taiwan in terms of safeguarding its air defense and national security.

Such national defense concerns are particularly relevant as the Chinese leadership still has not renounced the use of force against Taiwan as an option for resolving differences and there are over 1,000 Chinese missiles still aimed at Taiwan, the military spokesman office said.

"National security should be a vital prerequisite to opening the Taiwan Strait center line," an official said.

He stressed that until Beijing renounces the use of force against Taiwan and changes its military deployment targeting Taiwan, direct cross-strait flights should continue to take the routes across the East China Sea and South China Sea rather than directly across the Taiwan Strait.

In addition, the Taiwan air force needs airspace for pilot training, and the narrow, limited airspace along the east side of the Taiwan Strait demarcation line has been the main area used for flight drills, he said.

President Ma Ying-jeou said in Panama July 2 that his government will not consider opening direct flights across the center line of the Taiwan Strait due to national defense concerns.

Ma was responding to media reports that Wang Yi, director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, again on July 2 called for the opening of flights directly across the Taiwan Strait and the establishment of a mutual trust mechanism with Taiwan.

Chinese authorities have suggested several times on previous occasions that direct flights should cross the Taiwan Strait center line.

"We have consistently made it clear to Chinese officials that we cannot accept such a proposal at the moment because we need that airspace for air force pilot training," Ma said.

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