Taiwan protests name change by Japanese airlines

Image taken from JAL

Taipei, June 19 (CNA) Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Tuesday expressed discontent with Japan’s two largest airlines after they changed the designation “Taiwan” to “China Taiwan” on their Chinese-language websites, apparently under pressure from Beijing.

The ministry has complained to the airlines about the change and also called on the Japanese government to deal with the matter, MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said, adding that no political interference in international business operations from a third country should be countenanced, including the way international business enterprises refer to another countries on their websites.

Lee’s response came after Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) changed their designation for Taiwan to “China Taiwan” on their Chinese-language websites.

The change, which was made June 12, is meant to accommodate customer requests, the two Japanese airlines said Tuesday.

However, the designation remains “Taiwan” on their websites in Japanese and other languages.

When asked about the explanation given by the airlines, Lee said the ministry has been aware of their approach in handling the matter.

“We are dissatisfied, very dissatisfied with this result,” although the ministry is grateful to the airlines for the goodwill displayed in choosing to make the distinction, Lee added.

Taiwan’s representative office in Japan will continue to communicate with the Japanese side and protest the change because any move that minimizes Taiwan’s status is unacceptable, Lee said.

According to a review of the websites of more than 100 airlines, a majority maintain the designation “Taiwan” despite Chinese pressure to list Taiwan as part of its territory, Lee said.

Some airlines caved in to pressure from Beijing by listing Taiwan as part of China but changed the designation back following a protest from MOFA, according to Lee.

However, several then changed back to the name Beijing prefers, Lee said, adding that the ministry will continue to look out for carriers that flip-flop.

(By Ku Chuan and Evelyn Kao)