BEIJING/TAIPEI - China launched a weather satellite on Sunday as civilian flights altered their routes to avoid a Chinese-imposed no fly zone to the north of Taiwan which Beijing put in place because of the possibility of falling rocket debris.

Taiwan's transport ministry said Beijing had initially notified Taipei it would impose a no-fly zone from Sunday to Tuesday but later said that period had been reduced to 27 minutes on Sunday morning after Taiwan protested.

The no-fly announcement rattled regional nerves as it followed shortly after China staged new war games around Taiwan, which Beijing views as sovereign Chinese territory.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, China's main contractor for its space programme, said the weather satellite Fengyun 3G had successfully launched from the northwestern province of Gansu at 9:36 a.m. (0136 GMT).

It did not say what the flight path of the rocket carrying it was, but the time coincides with China's previous announcement about the no-fly zone.

China has said it is inaccurate to call it a no-fly zone, though Taiwan has issued a notice to airmen, or NOTAM, that uses the wording "airspace blocked due to aerospace flight activity".

Flights to and from Taiwan and China, Taiwan and South Korea and Taiwan and Japan were amongst those detouring around the zone on Sunday morning, according to routes tracked on Flightradar24.

The zone is in an area over the East China Sea slightly northeast of Taiwan that routinely sees heavy civilian flight traffic.

Taiwan has said it expected around 33 flights to be affected and has warned shipping to stay away.

China has denounced what it has called hype around China's space activities and an attempt to escalate confrontation across the Taiwan Strait.

(Reporting by Bernard Orr and Ben Blanchard; Editing by William Mallard)