The Trump administration said Wednesday it will ban Chinese passenger carriers from flying in and out of the US starting June 16, ramping up pressure on Beijing to allow American carriers to resume flights to the country.
The US Department of Transportation announced the move, which penalizes China after the country’s Communist rulers failed to comply with an earlier agreement on flights between the world’s two largest economies, Reuters reported.
Relations between the two countries have also soured in recent months amid escalating tensions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The order applies to Air China, China Eastern Airlines Corp, China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines Holding.
Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have asked to resume flights to China this month, even as Chinese carriers have continued US flights during the pandemic. Delta said in a statement on Wednesday that “we support and appreciate the US government’s actions to enforce our rights and ensure fairness.”
China “remains unable” to say when it will revise its rules “to allow US carriers to reinstate scheduled passenger flights,” the Transportation Department said in a formal notice made public on Wednesday.
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the news service.
The Trump administration on May 22 accused China of making it impossible for US airlines to resume service to China, and ordered four Chinese carriers to file flight schedules with the US.
The Chinese carriers are flying no more than one scheduled flight a week to the States but also have flown a large number of additional charter flights, often to help Chinese students return home.
The Trump administration is also cracking down on Chinese passenger airline charter flights and will warn carriers not to expect approvals.
Administration officials have suggested charter flights have been used to circumvent Chinese government limits on flights.
On Jan. 31, the Trump administration barred most non-US citizens who had been in China within the previous 14 days due to the coronavirus crisis but did not impose any restrictions on Chinese flights.
Major US carriers voluntarily decided to halt all passenger flights to China in February.
Delta and United are flying cargo flights to China, and Delta had requested approval for a daily flight to Shanghai from Detroit and Seattle, while United had asked to fly daily to Shanghai from San Francisco and Newark and between San Francisco and Beijing.
China’s air authority in late March said Chinese airlines could maintain just one weekly passenger flight on one route to any given country and that carriers could fly no more than the number of flights they were flying on March 12, according to the US order.
But because US passenger airlines had stopped all flights by March 12, China “effectively precludes US carriers from reinstating scheduled passenger flights to China,” the Transportation Department said.
The move is just the latest in the escalation of tensions between the two countries.
The US beefed up restrictions on Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant, and blocked a government pension fund from investing in China.
President Trump announced Friday that he was starting to end the US special relationship with Hong Kong, and that he will place sanctions on officials responsible for Beijing’s rollback of civil liberties in the former British colony.
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