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China Eastern cancels holiday flights amid dispute with Taiwan
[BEIJING] China Eastern Airlines Corp and Xiamen Airlines Co cancelled 176 additional flights to Taiwan after failing to gain approval from the island's authorities amid an escalating dispute between the two governments.
China Eastern needs to call off 106 round-trip flights for the Lunar New Year because Taiwan refused to approve them, while Xiamen Air has to cancel 70, the two carriers said in comments posted on their respective Weibo accounts.
The flights are a newest sticking point between China and Taiwan, which Beijing considers a province to be reunited with the mainland.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing Wen, whose ruling Democratic Progressive Party supports independence, this month protested China's "reckless" decision to approve four new flight routes over the Taiwan Strait, which it sees as part of a Chinese campaign to undermine its sovereignty.
China's unilateral decision to put the four routes - M503, W121, W122, W123 - into operation in early January affected Taiwan's aviation safety and national security, and added to challenges between the two sides, Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chang Hsiao Yueh said Monday in Taipei.
China cut off communications with the island after Ms Tsai took office in May 2016 and refused to say both sides belonged to "one China". In the absence of cross-strait consultations, there was no room for Taiwan to allow Chinese airlines flying those routes to operate charter flights during the Chinese New Year holiday season, Ms Chang said.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China condemned authorities in Taiwan for refusing to approve 176 flights to be operated by China Eastern and Xiamen Air using the newly opened airway M503, saying the decision disregarded the welfare of people on both sides of the strait, according to a CAAC statement published Jan 19.
Taiwan is prepared to deploy military transport planes to fly its citizens back to the Taipei-controlled Kinmen Island for the Lunar New Year holiday, the South China Morning Post reported, citing Chen Chin Sheng, director general of Taiwan's navigation and aviation department. The island would have three military planes ready to pick up 840 passengers a day, according to the report.