TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) on Wednesday (Aug. 3) announced that 51 international flights have been canceled on Thursday (Aug. 4), the day that Chinese live-fire drills are set to start around Taiwan, but the airport currently denies that the military exercises are the cause of the halted flights.
At 10:59 p.m. on Tuesday (Aug. 2), just 15 minutes after Nancy Pelosi's arrival in Taiwan, Chinese state-run mouthpiece the Global Times released an announcement from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) saying it would hold "important military exercises and training activities including live-fire drills" in six areas around Taiwan proper from Aug. 4 to Aug. 7. The PLA has marked vast swaths of waters off the coast of Taiwan, including areas to the northwest, north, northeast, east, southwest, and southeast of Taiwan.
By 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the Taoyuan airport had announced that 51 flights had been canceled for Thursday. According to the airport's official website, 26 arriving flights to Taiwan were canceled for Thursday, such as EVA Air Flight BR751 Shanghai to TPE, EVA Air Flight BR27 from San Francisco to TPE, EVA Air Flight BR15 Los Angeles to TPE, China Airlines Flight CI904 from Hong Kong to TPE, EVA Air Flight BR177 Osaka to TPE, and EVA Air Flight BR105 Fukuoka to TPE.
At least 25 flights departing from Taoyuan airport have also been canceled for Thursday. Examples include EVA Air Flight BR178 from TPE to Osaka and EVA Air Flight BR395 from TPE to Ho Chi Minh City.
However, the airport issued a statement that day in which it said that it had not received information that the cancelations had been caused by the exercises and that most of the suspended flights were due to the pandemic.
ETtoday reported that there are concerns that the routes most affected by the PLA's live-fire drills will actually be flights from Japan and South Korea to destinations in Southeast Asia. It also reported that the aviation industry in Japan will issue a solemn protest to the Chinese government for the disruption caused by the drills.
The true impact of the live-fire exercises remains to be seen and fully assessed. It is currently estimated that at least two percent of flights in and out of Taoyuan Airport could be canceled as a result of the exercises.