The Trump administration moved Wednesday to block Chinese airlines from flying to the U.S. in an escalation of trade and travel tensions between the two countries.
What We Know:
- The Transportation Department said it would suspend passenger flights of four Chinese airlines to and from the United States starting June 16. The decision was in response to China’s failure to let United Airlines and Delta Airlines resume flights to China this month. The airlines suspended those flights earlier this year in response to the coronavirus.
- “The Department will continue to engage our Chinese counterparts so both U.S. and Chinese carriers can fully exercise their bilateral rights,” the agency said in a statement. The four airlines affected by the order are Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, and Xiamen Airlines.
- According to the New York Times, there were about 325 passenger flights a week between the United States and China before the pandemic, including ones operated by United, Delta, and American Airlines. While U.S. carriers stopped their flights, Chinese airlines continued to fly about 20 times a week between the two countries by mid-February and increased that to 34 flights a week by mid-March.
- “We support and appreciate the U.S. government’s actions to enforce our rights and ensure fairness,” Delta spokeswoman Lisa Hanna said. United Airlines spokesman Frank Benenati said, “We look forward to resuming passenger service between the United States and China when the regulatory environment allows us to do so.”
- Messages to a spokesperson in China’s embassy in Washington were not immediately returned, and efforts to reach the person by phone were unsuccessful. As the administration moved against the airlines, it also stepped up its criticism of China on the 31st anniversary of the deadly clash on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted out a photograph of him meeting Tuesday with several survivors of the clash. The State Department later released a statement saying Pompeo was honored to meet the four dissidents, which he called “brave participants in the heroic protests for democracy that were brutally put down by the Chinese Communist Party on June 4, 1989”.