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Taipei talks to Tokyo over flight interdiction

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan has expressed concern to Japan over the latter's occasional harassment of Taiwanese civilian aircraft during their travel into overlapping airspace in the East China Sea, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.

MOFA spokeswoman Anna Kao (高安) said yesterday that MOFA has repeatedly engaged in “serious consultations” with Japanese authorities whenever the ministry received complaints from Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA, 民航局) over such harassment.

According to her understanding, no such incident has occurred over the past year, ever since Taipei expressed its concerns to Tokyo.

Kao's comments came one day after CAA Director-General Jean Shen (沈啟) raised the issue during a legislative session Monday.

Fielding questions during a legislative session, Shen told lawmakers that Taiwan's Flight Information Region (FIR) and Japan's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) narrowly overlap (between 123 and 124 degrees east longitude) in the East China Sea.

Taiwan's civilian flights are occasionally “intercepted” by Japanese military aircraft within the two nations' overlapping airspace in the East China Sea, Shen said.

According to Shen, since 2009, Japanese aviation authorities have demanded that Taiwanese airliners submit their flight plans to Japan when traveling through the overlapping air zone.

However, despite having already identified themselves to Japanese authorities, some of these passengers planes are still “intercepted” by Japanese fighters in the overlapping zone, the CAA head said.

Occasional Harassment

Shen said that moves made by the Japanese military have caused grave concern within the CAA because such harassment is extremely dangerous to the safety of passenger aircraft.

According to the CAA, such incidents occurred in 2002 and 2009.

In 2002, Japanese defense craft “monitored” a Taiwanese plane when the latter was testing a new air route designated B591, which stretches from Taipei to northeastern China through the overlapping zones.

The opening of direct flights between Taiwan and China in 2009 has made the matter more complicated since more Taiwanese flights would travel through the overlapping airspace, the CAA said. Similar harassment has occurred at least 15 times in 2009 alone, the CAA said.

Shen did not elaborate on the so-called interceptions made by Japanese fighters.

But according to CAA, during these incidents, Japanese fighter jets used an emergency frequency to demand that Taiwanese civilian aircraft passing through the airzone change their course, the CAA said.

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