Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense has announced that a Chinese rocket carrying a communications satellite passed over the country’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on November 9. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Long March rocket, launching from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan, flew above Taiwan’s atmosphere. Taiwan’s armed forces were placed on high alert in response to the rocket’s trajectory.
The rocket successfully deployed the Chinasat-6E (Zhongxing-6E) communications satellite into its designated orbit. This satellite is designed for radio and television broadcasting and replaces the aging ChinaSat-6B satellite. Its coverage area includes China, Southeast Asia, Australia, Central Asia, and South Asia. The launch of ChinaSat-6E marks China’s 52nd orbital launch in 2023, as the country aims to conduct over 70 launches this year.
However, concerns have been raised regarding the use of a highly toxic propellant combination of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide in the Long March rocket, which has resulted in falling debris and environmental hazards in Chinese villages.
This is not the first time a Chinese rocket has flown over Taiwan’s ADIZ. Such incidents, while not violating Taiwan’s airspace, are seen as attempts to intimidate the island nation. Taiwan’s Patriot missile defense system, specifically designed for intercepting ballistic missiles in the terminal phase, may not be capable of intercepting space-bound projectiles. The cost disparity between intercepting missiles and projectiles like China’s Dong Feng missiles has been a factor in this limitation.
It is important to differentiate between rockets launching into space and passing over a region. China’s use of such tactics for intimidation purposes against Taiwan has been noted. Taiwan remains vigilant in safeguarding its air safety and responding to any potential threats in the region.