The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on Friday announced its suspension of 44 China bound flights operated by Chinese carriers from Jan. 30 to the end of March, matching 44 previous cancellations of U.S. bound flights by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).
The restrictions will be placed on Air China Ltd., China Eastern Airlines Corp., China Southern Airlines Co. and Xiamen Airlines Co. Most of the suspended flights are from the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), as per Routes.
The dispute can be traced back to the CAAC’s “circuit-breaker” rule that requires a two week suspension of an airline route if five to nine passengers test positive for COVID-19 after arrival. The suspension extends to four weeks if more than 10 passengers test positive.
As a result of the policy, the CAAC has canceled 44 U.S. bound flights operated by American, Delta and United Airlines. In its order on Friday, the DOT called the rule unfair, since passengers who may originally test negative for COVID-19 before boarding their flights can test positive up to seven days after they arrive, CNN reported. The DOT said U.S. carriers who follow Chinese regulations “should not be penalized if passengers, post-arrival, later test positive for COVID-19.”
The DOT added that it has repeatedly raised objections to the Chinese government over the matter and that the department reserves “the right to take such future action as we deem appropriate,” which could mean further cancellations.
China, for its part, accused the U.S. of “bullying” for the recent cancellations, according to Bloomberg. A spokesperson insisted that its COVID-19 policies are effective, telling the U.S. to “respect science.”
The U.S. “wantonly suspended Chinese flights and disrupted their normal operations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters on Monday, according to Bloomberg. “It is irresponsible and unreasonable.”
The latest dispute adds to a list of economic and geopolitical issues between Washington and Beijing. These include economic espionage, the endangerment of democracy in Hong Kong, the reported abuses of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, and the flaring tensions between China and Taiwan, among others.
Earlier this week, 52 Chinese warplanes entered Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), forcing the self-governed island to scramble jets, radio warnings and defense missiles to disperse them. The show of force came after a U.S.-Japan drill near Okinawa had ended, according to the South China Morning Post.
Featured Image via Scarlet Sappho (CC BY-SA 2.0)