TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's two largest airlines have changed "Taiwan" to "China Taiwan" on their websites' China pages, officials said Tuesday (June 19), a move likely to please Beijing but anger the self-ruled island.
The change was made on June 12 and is meant to accommodate customers, Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) said.
The description remains "Taiwan" on their websites in Japanese and other languages, including the traditional Chinese version for Taiwan.
Both carriers said they had not received any protest from Taiwan so far, though Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported Taiwan's foreign ministry would lodge a complaint with the airlines through Japan's de-facto diplomatic mission in Taipei.
"We made the judgement (to change the name) while consulting and reporting to the transport ministry and foreign ministry," a spokesman at Japan Airlines said.
"The change came on June 12 as our preparations were done by then," he said.
June 12 was the date of the historic summit between North Korea and the United States, which attracted international attention.
"We chose a description that is easy to understand and acceptable for users of our websites," added the JAL official, who declined to be named.
A spokesman at ANA said the change was intended to make the description "easy to understand and acceptable for customers when they use our websites."
"We do not mean any particular group of customers here but mean all customers," he said without elaborating.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it was lodging protests with the two airlines and demanded a correction to the “inappropriate title”.
“Chinese authorities once again are unreasonably pressuring Taiwan’s international space,” the ministry said, adding that such moves “only increase resentment among Taiwanese people and severely harm cross-strait relations”.
The airlines are not the only international carriers who have made the change recently, with Australia's Qantas earlier this month defending its decision to list Taiwan as part of China.
The Chinese Civil Aviation Administration sent a notice to dozens of foreign airlines in April, asking them to comply with Beijing's standard of referring to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as Chinese territories.
In Beijing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said it was a basic principle for companies to “abide by Chinese laws and respect its people’s national sentiments” if they want to continue operating in the country.
Japan's ties with China are improving after years of acrimony over historical and territorial issues. Japan has close business ties with Taiwan but has acknowledged the "one China" policy, which describes Taiwan as an integral part of China.
Asked about the change, Japan's top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo was "not in favour of government authorities demanding certain measures from private companies based on a specific political stance."
"The government has expressed Japan's interest in this issue on the Chinese side," he added.