Vietnamese airlines have been directed to adjust flight routes in order to avoid six areas near Taiwan where military exercises are being conducted by China amid tensions sparked by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island, Vietnam’s central aviation agency said on Wednesday.
The Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV) released the direction after China announced its military would launch live-fire drills in six maritime areas surrounding Taiwan and their respective airspace from Thursday to Sunday and asked sea vessels and planes from other countries to avoid these zones.
Accordingly, Vietnamese carriers will adjust their flight routes to ensure their planes do not fly over or near the six drill areas labeled on a map released by China, CAAV general director Dinh Viet Thang told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
Thang also noted that Vietnamese airlines will seek out reserve airports far from these areas.
Such adjustments will increase flight distances, times, and expenses – a hefty burden given the already soaring coasts of Jet A1 flight fuel, according to CAAV.
The agency also stated that these drills will impact routes from Vietnam to the U.S., which are regularly operated by national carrier Vietnam Airlines, as well as flights to Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea.
Specifically, around 60 flights, including 36 by Vietnam Airlines, 22 by Vietjet Air, and several by Bamboo Airways, will be affected, according to the Vietnam News Agency.
Thang said CAAV will support the carriers if they face difficulty in altering flight routes through the airspace of relevant countries.
However, if there are adverse circumstances related to route adjustments, or if any significant impact arises from the exercises, airlines can proactively delay or cancel relevant flights to ensure safety, provided they notify customers in advance, Thang directed.
On August 2, China’s Xinhua News Agency released a notice that “the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will conduct important military exercises and training activities including live-fire drills” in six maritime areas specified in an attached map.
For safety reasons, vessels and aircraft are prohibited from entering the waters and airspace intended for the drills.
These exercises were announced soon after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taipei on Tuesday evening for a visit to Taiwan, despite previous warnings against the trip from mainland China.
Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is “a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China - U.S. joint communiqués,” Xinhua cited the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement on Tuesday.
In response, U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby underlined at a press briefing at the White House that Pelosi's visit to Taiwan did not change Washington’s stance on the ‘one-China’ policy, which recognizes Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as part of China.
Kirby also insisted that the visit was within Pelosi’s rights and did not infringe China’s sovereignty, according to Reuters.
Regarding increased tension following Pelosi’s visit, Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday called for the relevant parties to exercise restraint and not to escalate tension in the Taiwan Strait area.
Pelosi left Taiwan the same day.