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China warns airlines to avoid areas near Taiwan as tensions rise

China warns airlines to avoid areas near Taiwan as tensions rise
Taiwanese hold placards during a protest against the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Taipei, Taiwan, 2 August 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE/RITCHIE B. TONGO)

The country is conducting military exercises in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island. An official notice was sent late on Tuesday Hong Kong time, designating six areas of airspace as “danger zones”, according to carriers who received the message and Jang Chang Seog, a Korean transport ministry official. Flights will be restricted from 12pm on 4 August to 12pm on 7 August.

Pelosi flew to Taipei late on Tuesday as the highest-ranking American politician to visit Taiwan in 25 years, prompting China to condemn the visit and unveil a series of economic and military responses. China considers the island, a vibrant democracy and a key supplier of semiconductors, as part of the country. Taiwan remains the most sensitive issue between the US and China, with the potential to one day spark a military conflict. 

Xiamen Airlines announced adjustments to several flights, citing “flow control” in Fujian. Korean Airlines is planning to re-route some routes to South Asia in order to avoid Taiwan’s airspace during the period of China’s military exercises, a spokeswoman said by text message. Cathay Pacific Airways pilots were advised to carry 30 minutes worth of extra fuel for possible rerouting in Taiwan. 

Calls and messages to China’s civil aviation authority weren’t immediately returned.

Local branches of China’s maritime safety administration also issued multiple warnings for ships traversing certain territories, citing military exercise and firing practice, according to government statements. 

The disruption at airliners came as tensions escalate between the US and China while companies are grappling with global supply-chain snags sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s not clear whether the three-day flight ban would be extended, adding to concerns over soaring commodity prices and supply chain risks. 

At Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport, one of the mainland airports close to Taiwan, 123 flights were cancelled, while 79% of flights were operating as usual, according to data provider Variflight. At Fuzhou Changle International Airport in Fujian, 93 flights were scrapped and 74% flights were operating as normal. 

Following up the notice, South Korea’s transport ministry issued another notice to local airlines to reaffirm the safety of flights heading toward Taiwan, Jang said. Asiana Airlines, another major Korean airline, has no change in operation yet, a spokesman said by phone. 

Japan’s ANA Holdings Inc. and Japan Airlines Co. said their flights to and from Taiwan were operating as usual.


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