Last week officials in Taipei expressed alarm that China was upsetting the balance in the Taiwan Strait:

Taiwan has expressed concern over China’s plan to draw up an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) within the Taiwan Strait to submit to the International Civil Aviation Organization and pass on to other countries, the government said yesterday.

An ADIZ is an area of airspace usually along a national boundary within which identification of all aircraft is required for national security reasons.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said that Beijing planned to create an ADIZ to prevent the US and Japan from gathering intelligence on China.

Beijing is also planning to inaugurate a new air route on the Chinese side of the median of the Taiwan Strait, he said.

This week’s Washington insider report, the Nelson Report, discusses the matter:

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But issues remain, clearly. We note a pending PRC request to the ICAO (the international aviation authorities in Montreal) for a new civilian route which just happens to go down the Taiwan Strait in ways which could…could…seriously impede Taiwan defense issues, and so which by definition could involve US interests.

Our experts say that at least part of the issue is the same as raised by the Hong Kong problem…the degree of PLA decision-making authority in areas which, in this day and age, are more often relegated to the civilian officials of a government.

The PLA still controls all air-route decisions in China, we are told.

If so, then you cannot escape asking tough questions about additional motives for the route request at this time…given all else that has happened and is happening as Chinese officials at all levels express rising anxiety over Taiwan as the March elections approach.

And on the flip-side of the Chinese request…if Taiwan had more status at the international aviation decision-making authority, it perhaps could react to the PLA route request with less anxiety?

A concerned observer sums up for now:

“But the irony is the way in which domestic politics plays on each side of the Strait in shaping the issue and the US role. On the Chinese side, options concerning civilian aviation are constrained because the PLA controls the airspace over the Mainland, a reflection of the military’s continuing political power. But it’s not clear to me at least why, in this 21st century day and age, the PLA should necessarily continue to control the all the airspace. At some point, that should no longer be an immutable reality.

On the Taiwan side of the equation, it is the United States that usually supports Taipei in organizations like ICAO when there is a real problem. This looks like it might be a real problem: nibbling away at the island’s strategic depth. But CSB’s approach to the current elections campaigns, and Washington’s belief that he has paid too little attention to American security interests, may have reduced greatly our incentive to carry Taiwan’s water in ICAO.”

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Here is a perfect change for Washington to protest a change in the status quo where its own interests are concerned.