| 6 December 2023, Wednesday |

China launches weather satellite, flights avoid no-fly zone to north of Taiwan

On Sunday, China launched a weather satellite while civilian planes rerouted to avoid a Chinese-mandated no-fly zone to the north of Taiwan, which Beijing established due to the danger of falling rocket debris.

According to Taiwan’s transport ministry, Beijing first informed Taipei that it would enforce 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 announcement rattled regional nerves as it followed shortly after China staged new war games around Taiwan, which Beijing views as sovereign Chinese territory.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, China’s main contractor for its space programme, said the weather satellite Fengyun 3G had successfully launched from the northwestern province of Gansu at 9:36 a.m. (0136 GMT).

The satellite then entered its set orbit, the contractor said, describing the launch as a “complete success”. The Fengyun 3G is a low-earth orbit satellite designed to track rainfall.

It did not say what the flight path of the Long March 4B rocket carrying the satellite was, but the time coincides with China’s previous announcement about the no-fly zone.

China has said it is inaccurate to call it a no-fly zone, though Taiwan has issued a notice to airmen, or NOTAM, that uses the wording “airspace blocked due to aerospace flight activity”.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said some debris from the rocket launch had fallen into the “warning zone” off the island’s northern coast, but it did not affect Taiwan’s territorial safety.

Flights to and from Taiwan and China, Taiwan and South Korea and Taiwan and Japan were amongst those detouring around the zone on Sunday morning, according to routes tracked on Flightradar24.

Normal flight paths resumed shortly after 10 a.m. (0200 GMT).

The zone is in an area over the East China Sea slightly northeast of Taiwan that routinely sees heavy civilian flight traffic.

Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration said in a one-hour period starting from 9 a.m. (0100 GMT) 33 flights had to alter their routes, adding an extra five to 10 minutes of flying time.

China has denounced what it has called hype around China’s space activities and an attempt to escalate confrontation across the Taiwan Strait.

  • Reuters