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US Airlines Bow to Chinese Pressure, Change Taiwan Reference


FILE - China Airlines airplanes are parked on the tarmac at Songshan Airport in Taipei, Taiwan, June 24, 2016.
FILE - China Airlines airplanes are parked on the tarmac at Songshan Airport in Taipei, Taiwan, June 24, 2016.

Three U.S. airlines have agreed to China's demands to change how it refers to Taiwan on their websites ahead of a Wednesday deadline imposed by Beijing.

American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines removed the name "Taiwan" from the results of its destination searches, using instead the name "Taipei," the island's capital.

China's Civil Aviation Administration sent out a letter to dozens of international airlines in April demanding them to switch its reference of Taiwan to "Taiwan, China," to reflect Beijing's view that the self-ruled island is part of the mainland. Dozens of air carriers, including Australia's Qantas Airlines, British Airways and Air Canada, have already complied with the demand.

"Like other carriers, American is implementing changes to address China's request," American Airlines spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said in a written statement. "Air travel is global business, and we abide by the rules in countries where we operate."

The International Air Transport Association forecast last year that China would surpass the United States as the world's top aviation market by 2020.

The Trump administration denounced Beijing's demand back in May as "Orwellian nonsense."

China and Taiwan split after Mao Zedong's Communists drove the Nationalists off the mainland in the 1949 civil war, but Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its control - if necessary, by force.

Beijing has broken off contact with Taipei since President Tsai Ing-wen, the leader of the independence-leading Democratic Progressive Party, was elected president in 2016 and refused to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of China. It has pressured other nations to break off diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and has increased its military presence with naval and aerial exercises through the Taiwan Strait.

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