Japanese officials disclosed on Wednesday that China had informed them of intentions to establish a temporary no-fly zone near Taiwan from April 16-18. Following protests, Taiwan’s transportation ministry later revealed that China had reduced the duration to 27 minutes on Sunday, as reported by Reuters. South Korea’s transport ministry attributed the airspace closure to potential threats posed by uncontrolled fragments of the launch vehicle designated for deploying a Chinese satellite into orbit. The Long March 4C carrier system, which is likely to carry the Fengyun-3G satellite, is scheduled for launch on the specified date.
Beijing’s plans initially sparked regional apprehension, given the heightened tensions between the PRC and Taiwan. In recent days, the Chinese military has been conducting exercises near the island as a reprisal for a meeting between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California. Jen Ju-hsien, Deputy Chief of the General Staff for Intelligence at Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense, commented on the Reuters report by stating that the no-fly zone would be situated within Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), approximately 85 nautical miles north of the island’s coast.
A comparable incident transpired in November of the previous year when Spanish authorities halted air traffic over the country’s northeastern region for nearly an hour due to potential risks from fragments of a Chinese rocket. At the time, civil defense noted a “high risk” of planes colliding with uncontrolled components of the Long March 5B carrying system.
China’s management of rocket’s fragment returns has previously been criticized by the international community and Western experts, who have highlighted China’s lack of control over their rocket return flights. In May 2022, NASA censured China for not adhering to responsible outer space conduct standards concerning “space debris” after debris from the Long March 5B launch vehicle plummeted into the Indian Ocean near the Maldives.
Beijing’s communist authorities regard Taiwan as part of the PRC and endeavor to seize control of it, not ruling out the use of force. However, the majority of Taiwanese citizens are uninterested in falling under Beijing’s control, and the Taiwanese government pledges to defend democracy and freedom. Furthermore, Beijing has plans to conduct military exercises in Beibu Bay, a body of water near its border with Vietnam.