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President Tsai convenes national security meeting over dramatic changes in East Asia

The situation in East Asia has recently changed dramatically, including frequent regional military actions by North Korea and China that are creating tensions in other countries. China also recently—unilaterally and without negotiations—began to use the M503 and other controversial aviation routes, seriously impacting regional security and stability and air traffic safety. On January 7, President Tsai Ing-wen, accompanied by Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德), convened a meeting of senior government officials with national security portfolios to discuss recent international conditions and China's unilateral decision to start using controversial aviation routes. The meeting lasted one and a half hours. Attendees included Secretary-General to the President Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), National Security Council Secretary-General Yen Teh-fa (嚴德發), Minister of Foreign Affairs David T. Lee (李大維), Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬), National Security Bureau Director-General Peng Sheng-Chu (彭勝竹), Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chang Hsiao-yueh (張小月), Minister of Transportation and Communications Ho Chen Tan (賀陳旦), National Security Council Advisor Fu Don-cheng (傅棟成), and National Security Council Deputy Secretaries-General Chen Chun-lin (陳俊麟) and Tsai Ming- yen (蔡明彥). After the meeting the president issued the following statement:

1. Unilaterally initiating use of controversial aviation routes is a provocation that undermines regional security.

The situation in East Asia has recently changed dramatically. Those changes include the North Korea problem, China's rising military profile in the region, and its recent unilateral decision to begin using the M503 and other controversial aviation routes off the Taiwan coast. These issues not only have a serious impact on regional security and air traffic safety. For Taiwan, they also constitute a military threat and political provocation that impacts regional security and stability. We feel that mainland China, as a member of the regional community, should fulfill its obligations to regional stability. Inappropriate actions like these are irresponsible.

2. We have a firm grasp of the regional situation, and have strengthened our national security strategy.

Government agencies with a national security portfolio should mobilize to keep abreast of the dynamically changing regional situation, improve preparations for all response measures, and maintain close communications with other countries to beef up national security and safeguard the well-being of our citizens.

At the same time, national security agencies must make plans from a national security perspective based on long-term assessments that address changing regional situations and possible trends so that Taiwan can achieve strategic goals including "minimizing national risk" and "maximizing regional cooperation" while transforming challenges into opportunities and expanding future space for development.

3. We will continue to pursue national defense readiness, and safeguard the democratic freedoms of our citizens and country.

Taiwan's military should upgrade capabilities to closely monitor China's military movements, enhance early warning, deployment, and readiness measures, and take practical steps to show our determination to defend the country and safeguard our citizens.

4. We will enhance international public relations to win the understanding and support of the international community.

The unilateral decision by the Beijing authorities to use controversial aviation routes affects air transport safety and undermines the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. The international community does not welcome unilateral changes to the status quo that destabilize the region.

Taiwan's diplomatic and civil aviation authorities should continue communicating with governments, the civil aviation industry, and international organizations about the negative repercussions these controversial aviation routes have on regional stability and flight safety, and gain the understanding and support of the international community.

5. Beijing should fulfill its regional responsibilities and resume negotiations with Taiwan as soon as possible.

To mitigate the negative impact of these actions on regional stability, flight safety, and cross-strait relations, we are willing to take a responsible approach and jointly face and resolve issues. We call on the Beijing authorities to treasure our hard-won cross-strait peace and stability, and take steps to ease concerns raised by the M503 aviation route. In addition, based on the consensus reached in 2015, the two sides should move as quickly as possible to launch technical negotiations on air safety issues that have caused regional and cross-strait tension so that they can be resolved as soon as possible.

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