China warns airlines to avoid skies around Taiwan
August 03 2022 06:29 PM
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Alex Macheras
Alex Macheras

By Alex Macheras

China has warned commercial airlines operating in Asia to avoid flying in areas around Taiwan as it prepares to conduct ‘military exercises’ in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island. The Boeing C-40C, a modified Boeing 737, with callsign SPAR19, landed at Songshan Airport (TSA) following a seven-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur.
An official notice sent late on Tuesday Hong Kong time designated 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 August 4 to 12pm August 7.
As tensions climb amid Pelosi’s visit, international airlines have started to adjust operations as the world monitors developments. Korean Air confirmed the airline will reroute multiple flights to South Asia to avoid Taiwan’s airspace. Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific will have flight crew carry 30 minutes’ worth of extra fuel for potential rerouting. China’s Xiamen Airlines also confirmed ‘adjustments’ to several flights. Japan’s ANA and Japan Airlines said their flights to and from Taiwan were operating as usual.
Earlier, the Chinese Foreign Ministry had also condemned the visit of Pelosi to China stating that it severely damages peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Ministry while expressing its protest against the United States also said that Pelosi's visit heavily impact the political foundation of China-US relations. China has been also maintaining that Pelosi's visit is a "serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US joint communique".
Taiwan is talking to Japan and the Philippines about alternate air-traffic routes, ETtoday reported, citing Wang Kwo-tsai, Minister of Transportation and Communications. Taiwan’s Maritime Port Bureau also warned ships to avoid the area where drills will take place, Wang was reported as saying. There was no need for global chip manufacturing hub Taiwan to find alternatives for sea transport because ships can avoid Chinese drill zones, CNA reported, citing Transport Minister Wang Kwo-tsai.
Meanwhile, Philippine President Ferdinand R Marcos, Jr’s government was “closely monitoring” China’s moves in light of a United States lawmaker’s visit to Taiwan.
The military and Department of Foreign Affairs “are closely monitoring the situation as they would in any other similar circumstance,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles told a news briefing on Wednesday.
Local branches of China’s maritime safety administration also issued multiple warnings for ships traversing certain territories, citing the military exercises and firing practice, according to government statements.
Over 120 flights have been cancelled at Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport, a Chinese hub on the mainland – one of the closest to Taiwan. 90 flights were cancelled at Fuzhou Changle International Airport in nearby Fujian.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday, despite threats from China, which calls the visit a “major provocation.” China said the US official’s Taiwan visit is a threat to stability in the Taiwan Strait.
Four US warships, including an aircraft carrier, were positioned in waters east of Taiwan on what the US Navy called routine deployments on Tuesday amid Chinese anger over Pelosi’s visit to the island.
Pelosi is the highest-ranking official to visit Taiwan in 25 years. She said her visit is part of a “broader trip” to the Indo-Pacific region that focuses on “mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance.”
“Our congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honours America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” she said in a statement posted on her website. “Our discussions with Taiwan leadership will focus on reaffirming our support for our partner and on promoting our shared interests, including advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
“America’s solidarity with the 23mn people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy,” she added.
Ms Pelosi said her visit is one of several congressional delegations to Taiwan and it does not contradict America’s key foreign policy principles regarding US-Taiwan relations.
Pelosi’s aircraft became the most tracked active flight of all time. Flightradar24 data showed during the seven-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Taipei a total of 2.92mn people followed at least a portion of the flight. The C-40 B/C is based upon the commercial Boeing 737-700 business jet. The body of the C-40 is identical to that of the Boeing 737-700, but has winglets. Both models have state of the art avionics equipment, integrated GPS and flight management system/electronic flight instrument system and a heads-up display. Heading the safety equipment list is the traffic collision avoidance system and enhanced weather radar.
The aircraft is a variant of the Boeing next generation 737-700, and combines the 737-700 fuselage with the wings and landing gear from the larger and heavier 737-800. The basic aircraft has auxiliary fuel tanks, a specialized interior with self-sustainment features and managed passenger communications. The cabin area is equipped with a crew rest area, distinguished visitor compartment with sleep accommodations, two galleys and business class seating with worktables. The C-40B is designed to be an "office in the sky" for senior military and government leaders.

* The author is an aviation analyst. Twitter handle: @AlexInAir



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