China imposes no-fly zone near Taiwan

Fighter jet takes off during military exercise around Taiwan -- Wang Zixiao/Xinhua

Fighter jet takes off during military exercise around Taiwan — Wang Zixiao/Xinhua

China appeared to make a rare U-turn on Wednesday over the establishment of an aggressive no-fly zone north of Taiwan, after Taipei complained about the “outrageous” original three-day restrictions.

According to Taiwan’s defense ministry, Beijing originally proposed restricting all civilian flights in an area within the island’s air defense identification zone from April 16 to 18 due to “aerospace” activities.

But it was reduced to just 27 minutes from 9:30 a.m. to 9:57 a.m. on Sunday after Taipei protested.

The airspace in question “occupies a crucial place on the East Asian air routes and is a major artery in the western Pacific,” Taiwan’s defense ministry said in a statement.

“China’s attempt to restrict flights for three days under the pretense of ‘aerospace activities’ is not only almost unknown internationally, but also has a serious impact on the administration of civil aviation and deals a blow to aviation rights and safety.” it added.

The area is crossed by hundreds of flights every day.

Taiwan said Beijing changed the proposal after objections from Taipei, which said it would struggle “with the implementation” of such a no-fly zone.

The Chinese government has not said how it intends to enforce the ban, and a Foreign Ministry spokesman denied any knowledge of the matter.

The no-fly zone was confirmed by Japan and South Korea.

The restrictions follow more than a week of retaliatory measures from China after Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwanese President, met Kevin McCarthy, Speaker of the US House of Representativesin California.

China views such meetings as a direct challenge to its claims on Taiwan as its territory, which its democratically elected government opposes. Taiwan also has its own military, foreign policy, and currency.

The Chinese military led three days of live fire drills across Taiwan, who practice a “foreclosure” of the island state. At least 71 Chinese planes crossed the median line in the Strait between China and Taiwan.

Chinese J-15 fighter jets were also approaching Taiwan from the east in what appeared to be the first simulation of airstrikes from the side farthest from the Chinese coast.

China also conducted so-called “patrol operations,” inspecting ships in the Taiwan Strait.

A naval and air blockade of Taiwan — essentially cutting it off from the rest of the world — is one possible Beijing attack scenario.

The latest measures add to repeated threats by Xi Jinping, the leader of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, to annex Taiwan.

Last summer, China conducted its largest war drills to date in August when Nancy Pelosi, Mr McCarthy’s predecessor, ended up in Taiwan and met Ms. Tsai.

She was the highest-ranking American politician to visit Taiwan in 25 years, which infuriated Beijing.

Chinese authorities imposed controls on six areas of airspace — known as “danger zones” — around Taiwan for three days following Ms Pelosis’ trip, prompting numerous flight cancellations.

Taiwan is a major supplier of semiconductors worldwide and represents a major flashpoint that could potentially escalate into a military conflict between the US and China if bilateral tensions heat up.

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