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Thursday, April 18, 2024

China to Ban Vessels from Area Near Taiwan Over Rocket Debris

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

April 13, 2023

©Oleksii/AdobeStock

©Oleksii/AdobeStock

China will ban vessels from an area near Taiwan on Sunday because of the possibility of falling rocket debris, its maritime safety agency said on Thursday, as Japan sought details from Beijing on a reported no-fly zone in the same location. 

China has not commented on the no-fly zone, but South Korea, which was also briefed on the plans, said it was due to a falling object related to a launch vehicle. 

The disruption comes during tension in the region over Chinese military exercises around Taiwan, a show of force in response to a meeting last week in Los Angeles between Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

China regards Taiwan as its own territory and objects to any interactions between the Taiwanese leadership and foreign officials. Taiwan rejects China's sovereignty claims. 

Taiwan's government on Wednesday confirmed a Reuters report that China was planning to impose a no-fly zone from April 16-18 - when Japan hosts a meeting of G7 foreign ministers - but later said China had shortened the stipulation to just 27 minutes on Sunday morning after Taipei protested. 

The no-fly zone will affect about 33 flights, Taiwan's official Central News Agency reported, citing the island's transport minister, Wang Kwo-tsai. In a brief statement, China's Maritime Safety Administration released coordinates for the zone, saying shipping was banned from entering from 9 a.m. (0100 GMT) until 3 p.m. on Sunday as there "may be falling rocket debris". 

The coordinates correspond to a rectangular area to Taiwan's northeast, with the closest point 118 km (73 miles) from Taiwan, illustrated on a map that Taiwan's transport ministry released late on Wednesday. 

The zone is to the northwest of Japan's Ishigaki island and close to a group of disputed islets in the East China Sea that Japan calls the Senkaku and China the Diaoyu.

 A senior Taiwan official, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, told Reuters that China had not changed its previous notice of 27 minutes of flight restrictions on Sunday, and that the new notice only covered ships, not aircraft. 

Taiwan's transport ministry said the maritime notice was separate from the previous one, and that it would issue announcements for shipping and aviation relating to which areas to avoid at 9 p.m. (1300GMT) on Thursday.

 The ministry said it had also been informed by China that the sea area affected needed to be closed "based on considerations of maritime navigation safety such as rocket debris". Japan had sought an explanation from China on Wednesday as to what was going on, its Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said. 

"The government is continuing to collect and analyse detailed information, including the communication with the Chinese side, and will take appropriate measures based on the results," Matsuno told a briefing. China's foreign ministry declined to comment. 

(Reuters - Reporting by Liz Lee and Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Yimou Lee in Taipei and Chang-ran Kim in Tokyo; editing by Bernadette Baum and Jason Neely)

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