Trump-Kim summit Day 1: Nuclear weapons (and Michael Cohen)David Jackson•US North Korea summit: Trump calls Kim Jong Un ‘a great leader’ with a ‘tremendous future’ HANOI – President Donald Trump opened an historic second summit with Kim Jong Un here Wednesday by pledging to push for North Korean denuclearization, even as he faced a political firestorm at home that threatens to eclipse any progress.”I think it’ll be very successful,” Trump said as he and Kim posed for the cameras, proclaiming that he and his North Korean counterpart have a „great relationship.” At another photo opportunity, Kim said he is certain of an outcome „that will be welcomed by all people,” and „I will do my best to make that happen.”But Trump’s diplomatic efforts come as his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is expected to allege „criminal conduct” by the president in his first public testimony later Wednesday before Congress. Trump met with Kim for a brief private conversation, followed by a „social dinner,” all marking their first face-to-face encounter since the two met in Singapore last summer.The ceremonial events, splashed across U.S. television screens early Wednesday morning, are expected give way to more substantive talks on the second and final day of the summit Thursday.Simply put, Trump is trying to get Kim to commit to specific steps to eliminate nuclear weapons programs, while Kim wants Trump to lift economic sanctions that are crippling his impoverished nation.In urging denuclearization, Trump told Kim that „some people would like to see it go quicker, but you’re satisfied, I’m satisfied.” He also suggested giving up nuclear weapons would draw economic assistance, telling Kim that North Korea has „unbelievable, unlimited potential,” and „I look forward to watching it happen and to helping it to happen.”Asked about another goal – formally ending the Korean War – Trump told reporters, „we’ll see.”Meanwhile, Trump and other White House officials, mindful that the visit to Vietnam is competing for public attention among millions of Americans, attacked Cohen in the hours before the Kim meeting.Trump tweeted that Cohen „did bad things unrelated to Trump,” and „is lying in order to reduce his prison time.”Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately). He had other clients also. He was just disbarred by the State Supreme Court for lying & fraud. He did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time. Using Crooked’s lawyer! Some foreign policy analysts said they worry that Trump will be too willing to strike a bad deal with Kim in order to draw attention from his domestic problems, including Cohen’s testimony.”Congress should have postponed Cohen testimony, and Potus should not be tweeting about Cohen from Hanoi,” tweeted Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Trump appeared annoyed when reporters asked him about Cohen at one of the summit photo opps. The White House later restricted reporter access to the dinner with Trump, Kim, and their aides.The president did say he plans to hold a news conference after Thursday’s meetings with the North Korean leader.Trump also spent some pre-meeting time launching a Twitter attack on one of his congressional critics, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and claiming he discussed the senator’s exaggerations about his war record in a meeting with Vietnam officials.Tweeting that „I have now spent more time in Vietnam than Da Nang Dick Blumenthal,” Trump added that „his war stories of his heroism in Vietnam were a total fraud – he was never even there. We talked about it today with Vietnamese leaders!”Trump did not serve in the military during the Vietnam years, claiming college and medical deferments that included bone spurs in his foot.The tumult back in Washington – lawmakers are also busy with a measure, approved by the Democratic-controlled House, to repeal Trump’s border wall emergency – threaten to overshadow the work in Hanoi.The president’s troubles only add to the pressure to deliver results with Kim, who has signaled an interest in stronger relations with the United States but declined to dismantle his nuclear program.In the days leading up to the summit, Trump appeared to lower expectations, claiming he is „in no rush” for denuclearization as long as Pyongyang continues to suspend missile tests.President Donald Trump walks off Air Force One at Noi Bai International Airport on arrival, in Hanoi, Vietnam, Feb. 26, 2019, ahead of his second summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.Hours before the sit-down with the North Korean leader, Trump held largely ceremonial meetings with the leaders of Vietnam, and said their country can be a model for Kim, whom he described as „my friend.”„Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth. North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearize,” Trump tweeted early in the day.More than four decades after the Vietnam War, the Vietnamese view the summit as an opportunity to assert themselves on the world diplomatic stage. Heavily promoting the Trump-Kim summit, light poles in Hanoi are festooned with the flags of the U.S., North Korea and Vietnam, mounted on a shield featuring an image of a handshake.Large posters advertising the summit proclaim Hanoi as „The City For Peace.”Raising the curtain: Trump-Kim summit: What happened at their first meeting – and what to expect at their nextThe demands: Trump-Kim summit: North Korea must do something ‘meaningful’ to denuclearize before sanctions reliefTrump and Kim met at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel, an Art Nouveau masterpiece that harkens back to French colonial days in Hanoi. Past guests at the hotel have ranged from the comedian Charlie Chaplin to current Russian President Vladimir Putin.A one-of-a-kind relationship: Trump-Kim summit: From fire and fury to love letters, not your traditional relationshipAmong the issues on the Trump-Kim agenda:What exactly is ‘denuclearization’ Trump and aides have demanded that North Korea identify and destroy facilities used to make nuclear weapons. Kim, however, believes denuclearization should cover the entire region – including U.S. weapons systems designed to protect ally South Korea.Economic sanctions standoff Kim says he will not take major steps toward denuclearization until the United States and other countries lift at least some of the sanctions that have crippled North Korea’s economy.Trump has said sanctions will not be removed until Kim starts to denuclearize, though he has also held out the possibility of other economic assistance.Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump Chairman Kim realizes, perhaps better than anyone else, that without nuclear weapons, his country could fast become one of the great economic powers anywhere in the World. Because of its location and people (and him), it has more potential for rapid growth than any other nation!The economy is one of the reasons the U.S. agreed to meet in Vietnam. It hopes North Korea will follow the model of its communist ally, which developed a quasi-capitalist sector after economic reforms in the 1980s.Follow the money: Trump-Kim summit: Trump hints at rewards for North KoreaBusiness opportunities: Trump touts North Korea’s economic potential. North Korea-U.S. relations While neither leader is expected to open an embassy in the other’s country, negotiators are discussing „liaison offices” that could be used to improve communications between the two governments. A formal end to the Korean War Trump has been open to a treaty to formally end the Korean War, which is technically ongoing even though hostilities were suspended with an armistice in 1953.Negotiators are working on what aides called a „peace declaration,” a non-binding political statement to affirm North and South Korea are no longer at war.The history: How the North and South negotiated a truce in Korean WarSung-Yoon Lee, a Korea expert with the Fletcher School at Tufts University, said Kim wants to do just enough to satisfy Trump – „like retiring an exhausted nuclear site he no longer needs” – while retaining a weapons program he depends on for survival.”Two steps forward and one step back is still progress for North Korea,” he said.Olivia Enos, a policy analyst with the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, said she hopes Trump and his team tread cautiously. Give too much, she said, and the U.S. will lose its leverage and get little in return. „The president’s willingness to compromise threatens to undermine the administration’s maximum pressure strategy that brought Kim Jong Un to the negotiating table in the first place,” she said.While analysts worried that Trump might give up too much to Kim, Cohen planned to mention the president’s Vietnam trip in his testimony.In a prepared statement first reported late Tuesday by Politico, Cohen cited the deferments Trump received during the Vietnam War.”‘You think I’m stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam,'” Cohen quotes Trump as saying.In his prepared testimony, Cohen adds: „I find it ironic, President Trump, that you are in Vietnam right now.”What we know about North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un
Trump and Kim hold second day of summit in Hanoi By Jeff Mason and Soyoung Kim•Trump and Kim hold second day of summit in Hanoi By Jeff Mason and Soyoung Kim HANOI (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will hold another day of talks at their second summit in eight months on Thursday, after swapping compliments at a dinner but giving no sign of progress on the key issue of denuclearization.Trump hailed „a very special relationship” when he met Kim in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi on Wednesday and said he was satisfied with the pace of talks, despite some criticism they were not moving quickly enough.”Great meetings” and a „Very good dialogue,” Trump said on Twitter after dinner with Kim at the French-colonial-era Metropole hotel while the White House said the two planned to sign a „joint agreement” after further talks on Thursday.The White House has given no indication of what the signing ceremony might involve, although the two sides’ discussions have included the possibility of a political statement to declare the 1950-53 Korean War over, which some critics see as premature.They have also discussed partial denuclearization measures, such as allowing inspectors to observe the dismantling of North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor, U.S. and South Korean officials say.U.S. concessions could include opening liaison offices or clearing the way for inter-Korean projects, but critics say Trump risks squandering vital leverage if he gives away too much, too quickly.The Hanoi summit was Trump’s second with Kim since an inconclusive meeting in Singapore in June that produced much fanfare but little substance and there had been little sign of concrete progress since.The U.S. president nevertheless appeared upbeat with Kim even as his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen testified at a congressional hearing in Washington, calling Trump a „conman” who knew in advance about the release of stolen emails aimed at hurting his Democratic rival in the 2016 election campaign.Facing mounting pressure at home over investigations into Russian meddling in the election, Trump has sought a big win by trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for promises of peace and development, a foreign policy goal that has confounded multiple predecessors.Trump told Kim on Wednesday he felt the first summit was „very successful”. „Some people would like to see it go quicker; I’m satisfied; you’re satisfied, we want to be happy with what we’re doing.”The leaders exchanged views at dinner with the aim of achieving comprehensive and ground-breaking results from their summit, state news agency KCNA said on Thursday.”Sincere and in-depth views were exchanged to bring about a comprehensive and groundbreaking outcome,” it said.TRUMP SAYS NOT WALKING BACK Asked by a reporter if he was „walking back” on denuclearization demands, Trump said, „No”.Trump and Kim held a 20-minute, one-on-one chat before a dinner that also involved U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Kim’s top envoy Kim Yong Chol and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.On Thursday, they two leaders have a series of meetings scheduled at the Metropole, beginning with another one-on-one session lasting 45 minutes, the White House said.After a „joint agreement signing ceremony” Trump plans a news conference at 3:50 p.m. Hanoi time (0850 GMT).Asked if he would declare a formal end to the Korean War, which concluded with an armistice, rather than a peace treaty that North Korea has long sought, Trump said on Wednesday: „We’ll see.”The June meeting was the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. It produced a joint statement in which Kim pledged to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the two sides committed to establish new ties and build a permanent peace regime.But there has been little progress since.Kim said on Wednesday the leaders had overcome obstacles to meet a second time and praised Trump for his „courageous decision” to begin a dialogue, adding that he was „confident that there will be an excellent outcome that everyone welcomes”.Trump said late last year he and Kim „fell in love”, but whether bonhomie can move them beyond summit pageantry to substantive progress on eliminating a North Korean nuclear arsenal that threatens the United States is a big question.Trump indicated a more flexible stance in the run-up to Hanoi, saying he was in no rush as long as North Korea, which has not tested a nuclear weapon or intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017, maintained that freeze.U.S. intelligence officials have said there is no sign North Korea will give up its entire arsenal of nuclear weapons, which Kim’s ruling family sees as vital to its survival, and analysts say Pyongyang is unlikely to commit to significant steps without an easing of punishing U.S.-led sanctions.Trump has appeared to be betting on his personal relationship with Kim, and the economic incentive after 70 years of hostility between their countries.”Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth. North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearize,” Trump said on Twitter ahead of the meeting.(For live coverage of the summit, click: https://www.reuters.com/live/north-korea; Eikon SUMMIT LIVE; Reporting by Soyoung Kim and Jeff Mason in HANOI; Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin, James Pearson, Mai Nyugen, Ju-min Park, Khanh Vu, Josh Smith in HANOI, David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick in WASHINGTON; Editing by Grant McCool and Clarence Fernandez)
By Jeff Mason and Soyoung Kim
HANOI (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump hailed „a very special relationship” with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as they met in Vietnam for a second summit on Wednesday and said he was satisfied with the pace of denuclearization talks despite some criticism they were not moving quickly enough.
The U.S. president appeared upbeat with Kim even as on the other side of the world in Washington his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen called Trump a „conman” who knew in advance about the release of stolen emails aimed at hurting his Democratic rival in the 2016 election campaign.
„Great meetings” and a „Very good dialogue,” Trump said on Twitter after dinner with Kim at Hanoi’s French-colonial-era Metropole hotel while the White House said the two planned to sign a „joint agreement” after further talks on Thursday.
Facing increasing political and legal pressure at home over investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, Trump has devoted significant time and effort to trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for promises of peace and development, a foreign policy goal that has confounded multiple predecessors.
The Hanoi meeting was Trump’s second meeting with Kim in eight months and he appeared to reiterate recent statements that he was in no rush.
„We had a very successful first summit,” he told Kim. „I felt it was very successful, and some people would like to see it go quicker; I’m satisfied; you’re satisfied, we want to be happy with what we’re doing.”
Asked by a reporter if he was „walking back” on denuclearization demands, Trump said „no”.
Trump and Kim held a 20-minute, one-on-one chat before they sat down to dinner with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Kim’s top envoy Kim Yong Chol and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.
On Thursday, the two leaders are scheduled for a series of meetings at the Metropole, beginning with another one-on-one session lasting 45 minutes, the White House said.
The two leaders would hold a „joint agreement signing ceremony,” at the end of the meetings, which would be followed by a news conference by Trump at 3:50 p.m. Hanoi time (0850 GMT).
The White House has given no indication as to what the signing ceremony might involve, although the two sides have held discussions that have included the possibility of a political statement to declare the 1950-53 Korean War over, which some critics say would be premature.
Asked if he would declare a formal end to the Korean War, which concluded with an armistice, not a peace treaty that North Korea has long sought, Trump said: “We’ll see.”
Their summit in Singapore in June was the first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader and ended with fanfare but little substance.
Trump and Kim pledged to work toward denuclearization and permanent peace on the Korean peninsula, but there has been little progress since. Kim said they had overcome obstacles to meet a second time and praised Trump for his „courageous decision” to begin a dialogue.
„Now that we’re meeting here again like this, I’m confident that there will be an excellent outcome that everyone welcomes, and I’ll do my best to make it happen,” Kim said.
„We’re going to have a very busy day tomorrow,” a smiling, relaxed-looking Trump, said seated beside Kim at a round dinner table with the other four officials and two interpreters.
„Our relationship is a very special relationship.”
Observers said the pair were at pains to show their relationship had improved since June, with their body language closely mirroring each other.
Trump said late last year he and Kim „fell in love”, but whether the bonhomie can move them beyond summit pageantry to substantive progress on eliminating a North Korean nuclear arsenal that threatens the United States is the big question.
Trump indicated a more flexible stance in the run-up to Hanoi, saying he was in no rush on denuclearization as long as North Korea, which has not tested a nuclear weapon or intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017, maintained that freeze.
Trump risks squandering vital leverage if he gives away too much, too quickly, critics said.
Evans Revere, a former U.S. negotiator with North Korea, said Trump was under pressure given his domestic problems and „Kim may be tempted to push Trump even harder for concessions, knowing how much the president wants and needs that testing pause.”
Daniel Russel, who served as the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia until early in Trump’s presidency, said telling Kim that he could take his time was anything but strategically wise.
„The yardstick for assessing … results is not whether Trump proclaims himself ‘happy,’ but whether the outcome takes North Korea measurably closer to revealing and dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”
U.S. intelligence officials have said there is no sign North Korea will give up its entire arsenal of nuclear weapons, which Kim’s ruling family sees as vital to its survival, and analysts say Pyongyang is unlikely to commit to significant steps without an easing of punishing U.S.-led sanctions.
The two sides have discussed partial denuclearization measures, such as allowing inspectors to observe the dismantlement of North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor, U.S. and South Korean officials say.
U.S. concessions could include opening liaison offices or clearing the way for inter-Korean projects.
Trump has appeared to be betting on his personal relationship with Kim, and the economic incentive after 70 years of hostility between their countries.
„Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth. North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearize,” Trump said on Twitter ahead of the meeting.
(For live coverage of the summit, click: https://www.reuters.com/live/north-korea; Eikon SUMMIT LIVE [nL3N20M1H6]; Reporting by Soyoung Kim and Jeff Mason in HANOI; Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin, James Pearson, Mai Nyugen, Ju-min Park, Khanh Vu, Josh Smith in HANOI, David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick in WASHINGTON; Editing by Robert Birsel, Lincoln Feast and Grant McCool)
Russian Tantal an oil/chemical tanker is seen at sea outside the far eastern city of Vladivostok
By Polina Nikolskaya
VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Reuters) – A Russian tanker violated international trade sanctions by transferring fuel to a North Korean vessel at sea at least four times between October 2017 and May 2018, two crew members who witnessed the transfers said.
Such transactions could have helped provide North Korea with an economic lifeline and eased the isolation of the secretive communist state, whose leader, Kim Jong Un, is due to meet U.S. President Donald Trump in Vietnam this week.
Primportbunker, the owner of the vessel the crew members said made the transfers, did not respond to requests for comment by telephone. No one answered the door when Reuters visited the building where Primportbunker has its headquarters in the port city of Vladivostok on Russia’s Pacific coast.
On the four voyages between Oct. 13, 2017, and May 7, 2018, the Tantal tanker gave its destination as the Chinese port of Ningbo when it set sail, according to port documents seen by Reuters and tracking data from financial data company Refinitiv.
It then met up in international waters with a North Korean vessel to which it transferred its cargo of fuel, the two crew members who witnessed the transfers said.
The two crew said the fuel transfers took place when the Tantal’s transponder, which allows the vessel to be tracked at sea, was not operating. Shipping industry experts said this indicates the transponder was deliberately turned off or the Tantal had entered a zone not covered by ship-tracking radar.
On each occasion, the transponder started operating again when the Tantal was close to port in Russia, the two crew said.
They declined to give their names, citing fear of reprisals.
„We got officially registered for Ningbo and went to the 12-mile zone (marking the limits of Russian territorial waters),” one of the crew said, describing four journeys in which he was involved.
„We worked at night there with the North Korean tanker Chon Moyng-1,” he said.
Such transactions violate the international sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear and missiles programme, which include a United Nations ban on nearly 90 percent of refined petroleum exports to Pyongyang.
Washington has accused Russia of „cheating” on sanctions and said it has evidence of „consistent and wide-ranging Russian violations”. In earlier denials that it has violated sanctions, Russia has said such accusations are not backed up by evidence.
Alexander Matsegora, Russia’s ambassador to North Korea, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying the allegations over the Tantal were „rumours apparently collected in certain kinds of establishments in the port.”
He said any Russian fuel deliveries to North Korea were legal and mainly by rail.
THREE OTHER TRIPS
Russia’s foreign ministry and the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions, did not respond to requests for comment about the Tantal. The independent U.N. panel of experts that monitors implementation of sanctions also did not respond.
Russia’s Far Eastern Customs Administration said it could not provide information about the Tantal’s voyages. The Seaport Administration of Russia’s Primorye region, which includes Vladivostok, said it had sought information from the Federal Marine and River Transport Agency in response to Reuters’ questions but the agency provided no information.
One of the crew members who said he was on board during the transfers said the ship that received the fuel flew the North Korean flag and saw it had the name Chon Myong-1 on its side.
The Chon Myong-1 was in March 2018 included on a U.N. list of vessels that have conducted so-called ship-to-ship transfers of fuel in violation of sanctions.
Reuters’ was unable to obtain comment from North Korea and the owners of the Chon Myong-1.
The Tantal concealed its fuel transfers to North Korea by declaring when it returned to port that it had transferred the fuel at sea to a Chinese vessel, the two crew members said.
A third crew member said the Tantal had met up on these occasions with a vessel that was not North Korean – the China-registered Hui Tong 27 – and told port authorities on its return to port that it had transferred its cargo of fuel to this ship. But the Refinitiv ship-tracking data showed the Hui Tong 27 was not in the area at these times.
The Tantal also gave Ningbo as its destination on three other trips between October 2017 and May 2018, according to port documents and shipping data. The two crew members who spoke to Reuters did not cite any evidence that sanctions were violated on these three voyages.
In December 2017, Reuters quoted two senior Western European security sources as saying Russian tankers had supplied fuel to North Korea on at least three occasions in the preceding months by transferring cargoes at sea. The security sources made no mention of the Tantal.
A court in Vladivostok introduced bankruptcy proceedings on behalf of the Russian tax service against Primportbunker on Sept. 18 last year, according to a publicly available court order. The first stage of bankruptcy proceedings is still under way — the company is now under temporary management which is assessing its ability to pay off creditors. If unable to pay, the company’s assets will be sold and it will be closed down, according to Russian law.
The two crew members who spoke to Reuters said they had not always been paid their wages on time.
Denis Vlasov, executive partner in law firm Vladpravo which represented Primportbunker, said Primportbunker had tried to resolve its financial problems including wage arrears, but that Vladpravo stopped working with the company about a year ago. He said he knew nothing about the Tantal’s declared trips to Ningbo.
Shipping brokers cited customs data as showing that on three of the seven trips from October 2017 to May 2018 the Tantal was carrying fuel from the Komsomolsky refinery in Komsomolsk-on-Amur in Russia’s far east. The refinery, which is owned by state oil company Rosneft, did not respond to requests for comment. There was no suggestion Rosneft know of the alleged transfers at sea. Rosneft did not respond to requests for comment.
The data quoted the brokers for the same three trips showed the oil products were acquired from the refinery by a small Russian trading firm, Mir Torgovli, based in Vladivostok. Mir Torgovli’s buyer was a Chinese firm in Shandong called Worldmax Trading Co. Ltd, according to the data cited by the brokers.
Mir Torgovli’s chief executive declined to comment. Reuters was unable to reach Worldmax Trading.
After completing the last of the seven voyages for which the destination was registered as China, the Tantal has not left Vladivostok port, according to the Refinitiv ship-tracking data. It sits at anchor offshore, shipping industry sources said.
(Additional reporting by Gleb Stolyarov in Moscow, Jonathan Saul in London, Meng Meng and Aizhu Chen in Beijing, Michelle Nichols in New York, Lesley Wroughton in Washington, Editing by Timothy Heritage)
Passengers are seen at the ticket counters outside the airport after flights were cancelled following temporarily suspension of flights, in Jammu
By Aditi Shah and Devjyot Ghoshal
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Several airlines, including Emirates and Qatar Airways, suspended flights to Pakistan on Wednesday after the South Asian nation closed its air space following heightened tensions with neighbouring India.
Etihad, flydubai, Gulf Air, SriLankan Airlines and Air Canada also suspended services to the country and flight tracking portals showed Singapore Airlines, British Airways and others were forced to reroute flights.
Airlines flying over India and Pakistan to Europe, the Middle East and Asia were disrupted and some flights were routed through Mumbai on India’s western coast, so they could head further south and avoid Pakistan air space, an Indian government official told Reuters.
Pakistan carried out air strikes and shot down two Indian military jets on Wednesday, Pakistani officials said, a day after Indian warplanes struck inside Pakistan for the first time since a war in 1971, prompting leading powers to urge both of the nuclear-armed countries to show restraint.
Tension has been elevated since a suicide car bombing by Pakistan-based militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police on Feb. 14, but the risk of conflict rose dramatically on Tuesday when India launched an air strike on what it said was a militant training base.
Mark Martin, founder and chief executive at Martin Consulting India, said about 800 flights a day use the India-Pakistan air corridor, making it „very critical”.
„You can’t overfly China, so you have to overfly Pakistan and India and go to Southeast Asia and Australia. Most of the traffic destined for Bangkok and Singapore will have to fly over Iran and then possibly take a detour,” he said.
International airlines that normally transit between Indian and Pakistani airspace have been forced to reroute, including flights by Singapore Airlines, Finnair, British Airways, Aeroflot, and Air India, according to online portal flightradar24.com which tracks the movement of planes globally.
Qatar Airways said in a statement it has temporarily suspended flights to eight cities in India and Pakistan „due to the ongoing situation on the India-Pakistan border” and that its flights routed over the India-Pakistan air space may be delayed due to rerouting in the area.
Bahrain’s Gulf Air said it had suspended all fights to and from Pakistan due to closure of airspace while low-cost carrier flydubai said it is reviewing its schedule. Emirates and Etihad also said they had suspended some flights to Pakistan.
All flights from Kabul to India have been cancelled until further notice while India’s state-run carrier Air India has cancelled its flights until the first week of March, an airline official in Kabul said.
Air Canada said it has temporarily suspended service to India because of Pakistan’s airspace closure.
Singapore Airlines’ Europe-bound flights would need to make refueling stops, the airline said in a statement. British Airways said it is monitoring the situation closely.
India, earlier on Wednesday, shut several airports in the northern part of the country temporarily, leading to dozens of domestic flight cancellations after Pakistani warplanes crossed a disputed border into the Indian side of Kashmir.
Operations at the Indian airports have now resumed.
Indian airlines including IndiGo, India’s biggest airline by market share, low-cost rival GoAir and full-service carriers Jet Airways and Vistara, a joint venture between Singapore Airlines and Tata Sons, were forced to cancel services to at least six cities in northern India due to airport closures.
The airlines said on Twitter that flights to cities including Amritsar, Chandigarh, Dehradun, Jammu, Leh and Srinagar have been put on hold or temporarily suspended.
Airports in the cities of Amritsar, Pathankot, Jammu, Leh and Chandigarh were temporarily closed for commercial flights earlier on Wednesday, sources told Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan in New Delhi, Krishna Das in Jammu, Alexander Cornwell in Abu Dhabi, Rupam Jain in Kabul, Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore and Alison Lampert in Montreal; editing by Darren Schuettler and Neil Fullick)