Flights out of northern Taiwan were delayed Sunday after China launched a rocket carrying a satellite that dropped debris into waters north of Taipei’s capital. While the satellite launch had no obvious military purpose, it comes after China held large-scale military drills in response to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s transit visit to the United States earlier this month, during which she met US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California. .
Tensions remain high, and China sent warplanes flying toward Taiwan more than 200 times last weekend while its navy ships circled the self-ruled island it claims as Chinese territory to be annexed by force if necessary.
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Taiwan’s Defense Ministry issued a statement on public media, saying it had monitored the 9:36 am launch from the Jiuquan base in northwestern China. While some rocket parts had landed within Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, they posed no threat to “our nation’s territory,” the statement said.
China had declared a 27-minute halt to flights over a section of the East China Sea, considerably shorter than the no-fly period over parts of three days it had originally announced. Taiwan said it strongly protested the notice and was able to get China to reduce the flight ban time to a brief period on Sunday morning.
Still, the flight ban caused disruptions for travelers headed to Japan from Taipei’s Songshan Airport. Lee Yang-ming, a 54-year-old working in the medical industry, said he had missed an afternoon of sightseeing in Tokyo after his departure time was put back by two hours.
“We had our schedule all planned,” Lee said. “That’s ruined one day of our visit.” Recent Chinese exercises around Taiwan have been seen as a display of its ability to attack the island and cut off air and sea transit routes in the area that is among the most vital to trade and travel in the world.
That has brought strong condemnations from the US, Taiwan’s chief ally, and warnings from other nations of the calamitous effect a Taiwan Strait conflict would have on the entire world.