BEIJING/TAIPEI: China launched a weather satellite on Sunday, while civilian flights rerouted to avoid a Chinese-mandated no-fly zone to the north of Taiwan, established due to the likelihood of falling rocket debris.
According to Taiwan’s transport ministry, Beijing initially informed Taipei that it would impose a no-fly zone from Sunday until Tuesday, but that period was later cut to 27 minutes on Sunday morning when Taiwan complained.
The no-fly zone decision shook regional nerves because it came just days after China conducted new war games surrounding Taiwan, which Beijing regards as Chinese territory.
The weather satellite Fengyun 3G was safely launched from the northwestern province of Gansu at 9:36 a.m. (0136 GMT), according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, China’s principal contractor for its space program.
The satellite then entered its predetermined orbit, according to the contractor, who described the launch as a “complete success.” The Fengyun 3G satellite is a low-Earth orbit satellite that monitors rainfall.
The flight route of the Long March 4B rocket carrying the satellite was not specified, but the period coincided with China’s previous proclamation regarding the no-fly zone.
China has argued that calling it a no-fly zone is incorrect, but Taiwan has issued a notification to airmen, or NOTAM, with the phrase “airspace blocked due to aerospace flight activity.”
According to Taiwan’s defense ministry, some debris from the rocket launch fell within a “warning zone” off the island’s northern coast, but this had no effect on Taiwan’s territorial safety.
According to Flightradar24, flights to and from Taiwan and China, Taiwan and South Korea, and Taiwan and Japan were among those detouring around the zone on Sunday morning.
Flight paths returned to normal shortly after 10 a.m. (0200 GMT).
The zone is located over the East China Sea, somewhat northeast of Taiwan, and is often used by civilian aircraft.
According to Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration, 33 flights had to change routes in a one-hour period beginning at 9 a.m. (0100 GMT), adding five to ten minutes of flying time.
China has condemned what it calls “hype” surrounding China’s space activities and an attempt to increase tensions across the Taiwan Strait.