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International relations

Air carriers dodge China-Taiwan spat with city name only

JAL, ANA, Korean Air avoid 'country' categorization

Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways are navigating a course to evade turbulence on the Taiwan-China issue.   © Reuters

TOKYO/TAIPEI -- Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways have removed country labels from all East Asian destinations on their websites to avoid taking a position on the relationship between Taiwan and mainland China.

The carriers previously distinguished among destinations in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Now, only city names are listed under the heading of "East Asia," which also includes South Korea. This is true of all versions of the websites, including those geared toward customers in Taiwan and mainland China.

China's Civil Aviation Authority in April ordered 44 airlines from around the world to label Taiwan as a part of China, threatening legal penalties for noncompliance. Some carriers, such as Australia's Quantas, have done so, fearing a loss of Chinese business or exile from the market. Korean Air Lines has adopted a strategy similar to the Japanese carriers, and does not seem to have been met with complaints from either Beijing or Taipei.

JAL and the ANA Holdings unit both generated controversy in June when their online route maps briefly labeled China and Taiwan together. Later in the month, the airlines were spotted using the label "Taiwan, China" for the island on their mainland and Hong Kong websites. The Foreign Ministry in Taipei lodged stiff protest, citing its people's "special feelings" toward Japan.

With a solution now in place to placate both sides, "we believe the situation is starting to return to normal," ANA said.

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