WLD_220808 Taiwan-1659948121005
An air force pilot from the Eastern Theatre Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) joins a combat training exercises around the Taiwan Island on August 7, 2022. Image Credit: AP

Hong Kong: Air traffic around Taiwan is gradually returning to normal after airspace surrounding the island reopened, Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications said on Monday, although China later announced fresh military drills in the area. Shipping in the Taiwan Strait too showed signs of returning to normal, a Bloomberg report said.

China last week deployed scores of planes and fired live missiles near during military exercises sparked by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

The drills led some airlines to cancel flights to Taipei and to alter flight paths between Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia to avoid the affected area.

Beijing-issued notices to airmen (NOTAM) had declared temporary danger areas for airlines to avoid during the exercises that encircled much of Taiwan. The final NOTAM covering a section of airspace east of the island expired on Monday at 0200 GMT and was not extended.

China’s military announced fresh drills in the seas and airspace around Taiwan on Monday, but no specific location was provided, no new NOTAM was issued and there were no signs on flight tracking service FlightRadar24 of airlines adjusting routings.

Taiwan’s transportation ministry earlier said most scheduled flights to and from the island had continued to operate during the Chinese military exercises that began on August 4, averaging around 150 departures and arrivals per day.

The number of flights transiting through the airspace its controllers manage is gradually returning to normal after the final NOTAM was lifted, the ministry added in the statement on its website.

Some foreign airlines that typically used the airspace had instead flown alternative routes through areas managed by Japan and the Philippines during the drills, the ministry said last week.

Korean Air Lines Co Ltd, which had cancelled flights to Taipei on Friday and Saturday and rerouted others to avoid the affected area, said on Monday that it had resumed normal flight operations.

Philippine Airlines said it would return its flights to and from Taipei to their normal routings after using alternative flight paths during the last four days of drills.

Korean Air said it had not made any changes to its flight plans after the new Chinese announcement, while Philippine Airlines did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Temporary airspace closures and route changes during major military exercises occur regularly around the world.

Ships resume Taiwan routes

More than 40 vessels have transited through a China military drill zone south of Taiwan’s main port since Saturday, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. The latest ship positions show four of the total six zones being traversed.

Shipping in the Taiwan Strait, a key route for supply chains and commodities, has faced uncertainty and delays since Beijing began its most provocative military drills in decades in the wake of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan last week.

Some shipowners barred their vessels from transiting the strait, while others navigated around the drill zones. Vessels had also been hesitant about approaching the major port of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan, seeking to avoid the large drill zone located just offshore.

Before the new drill was announced at around midday Monday, there were signs that shipping and air travel were resuming their original routes. The financial penalties for not delivering cargoes to customers on time may be too costly to avoid the strait, said shipping experts.