China lifts air control measures caused by military drills

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - China will on Friday lift air traffic control measures imposed to allow military drills and which have caused major delays and cancellations of flights, raising concerns over airline earnings.

Flights in the country's eastern, central and southern regions will return to normal once the restrictions are lifted, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said a statement posted on its website late on Thursday.

The Public Security Bureau had said flights could still be affected until mid-August. Xinhua said military drills will continue in coastal areas in the southeast even after the air control restrictions are lifted.

Hundreds of flights have been delayed or cancelled since July 20 due to the air controls.

In one of the most serious disruptions, authorities issued a red alert on Tuesday, resulting in a near shut down of 20 airports in east China for much of the afternoon.

The military exercises, which political analysts say are larger in scope and duration than in years past, come as tensions with Japan and other Asian nations increase, although the government has called them annual and routine.

Defence Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said the exercises are not targeted at any other country.

"We hope parties concerned do not to make groundless links. It is one's own problem if he is suspicious of China's military drills and takes it personally," the official Xinhua news agency quoted Geng as telling a monthly news briefing on Thursday.

He added the drills are annual routine events aimed at strengthening real-combat training and military preparation, and improving the capability of countering various security threats.

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