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Taiwan says agrees with China on commercial air routes

[TAIPEI] Taiwan and China have agreed on new commercial air routes between them, resolving differences over original proposals from Beijing, officials said on Monday.

In January China said it planned four new commercial flight routes, saying they were needed to meet passenger demand.

Beijing's move prompted objections from Taiwan because they were announced before discussions between both sides had been completed.

Taiwan maintained the new routes were a flight safety risk because the main north-south route near the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, the body of water that separates the two sides, came close Taiwan's airspace. The shorter west-east routes passed close to Taiwan's outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu.

China will delay implementing the main north-south route it had planned, while suspending plans for three smaller west-east routes, said Lin Tyh-Ming, director general of the island's Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA).

Under the agreement reached on Monday, China will move the north-south route, known as M503, further west of the mid line of the Taiwan Strait, Mr Lin said.

"The results demonstrate that rational and pragmatic negotiations have positive implications for maintaining cross-strait peace and stability," said Wu Mei-Hung, deputy minister for the Mainland Affairs Council, the Taiwanese ministry in charge of China policy, at a joint news conference held with the CAA.

China deems Taiwan a renegade province and has not ruled out the use of force to take it back. Taiwan and China have signed a series of landmark trade and economic agreements since 2008, yet political and military suspicions still run deep, especially in Taiwan.