Taiwan issues alert over China satellite launch as poll ramps up security fears

A Long March rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou-17 spaceship lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China, on Thursday, Oct 26, 2023. (File Photo: AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Published January 9, 2024

TAIPEI: Taiwan issued a national emergency alert on Tuesday (Jan 9) as China launched a satellite, days before the self-ruled island holds a crucial presidential election that has heightened security worries.

The alert came hours after election front-runner Lai Ching-te, Taiwan’s current vice president, accused Beijing of using “all means” to influence this weekend’s poll, which will set the course of cross-strait ties for the next four years.

Phones across Taiwan blared with a “presidential alert” at about 3.15 pm local time, around the time Beijing announced the successful launch of its Einstein Probe satellite, which it says will gather astronomical data.

“China launched (a) satellite which flew over the southern airspace,” said the Taiwanese alert in Chinese. “Public, please beware of your safety.”

The English part of the message described it as an “air raid alert”, warning of a “missile flyover Taiwan airspace”, but officials said this was a mistranslation.

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu assured reporters that it was a satellite, explaining that the alert was issued because of possible “debris”.

“When a rocket is openly flying in our sky, some of their tubes or debris will fall in this region,” Wu told reporters at a news conference interrupted by the alert.

“That’s the reason why our national alert centre will issue this kind of alert. It has happened before.”


Earlier Lai warned voters to have no illusions about China maintaining peace, but said that he would keep the door open for exchanges with Beijing if he takes power.

Saturday’s election will be closely watched from Beijing to Washington as voters choose a new leader to steer the island in the face of an increasingly assertive Beijing.

China claims Taiwan as part of its territory, rejecting the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government’s stance that the island is “already independent”.


SOURCE: www.channelnewsasia.com

RELATED: Chinese Balloons Aim to Influence Taiwan’s Election, Experts Say

FILE – Taiwan military vessels are seen in Keelung Harbor in Taiwan, Aug. 4, 2022. Taiwan’s defense ministry said it detected three balloons from China flying over the Taiwan Strait on Jan. 8, 2024, the latest in a spate of such sightings.
Published January 8, 2024

Taiwan’s defense ministry said it detected three more balloons from mainland China flying over the Taiwan Strait on Monday, the latest in a spate of such balloons the ministry has spotted over the past month.

The ministry said that since December it had detected nearly 20 Chinese high-altitude balloons crossing the central line of the Taiwan Strait, many of which flew over Taiwan, and that three in the past week had even passed over important military bases.

The ministry Saturday accused Beijing of threatening civil aviation safety and waging psychological warfare with the balloons ahead of the island’s presidential election on Saturday.

Asked Monday whether the balloons posed a threat to international civil aviation, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mao Ning said to Reuters, “I’m not aware of the specifics you mentioned, and it’s not related to China’s foreign affairs.”

Bid to tilt election?

Some experts believe China’s balloons are part of Beijing’s attempts to influence the election.

Taiwan strait
Taiwan strait

Michael Mazza, a senior director at the Virginia-based nonprofit research group Project 2049 Institute, said the high-altitude balloons added to China’s military aircraft and warships around Taiwan.

“My hypothesis is that China is attempting to influence the elections,” he told VOA by email.

“Sending three balloons directly over Taiwan is a warning. China is saying that it is willing to blatantly violate Taiwan’s borders,” Mazza added. “In doing so, it has crossed a threshold; further escalation could involve more threatening displays in Taiwan’s skies. The message to Taiwan’s people is this: Things can get even worse, but you can vote to make them better.”

William Lai of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party is the front-runner in the race, which includes Hou Yu-ih of the more Beijing-friendly Nationalist Party — also known as the Kuomintang or KMT, which is Taiwan’s main opposition party — and third-party candidate Ko Wen-je of the Taiwan People’s Party.


SOURCE: www.voanews.com

RELATED: Spike In Chinese Balloons Over Taiwan A “Serious Threat”

Taiwan has slammed Beijing after a surge in the number of balloons launched over and around the island in recent days.

A graphic prepared for The War Zone by @detresfa_ shows the flightpaths of Chinese balloons launched toward Taiwan in the last month:
Published January 8, 2024

High-altitude balloons, launched by China, are once again in the headlines, this time with a spate of sightings over and around Taiwan. Tensions between the island and Beijing are already strained, with elections due later this week. As a result of the recent spike in balloon flights, Taiwan has accused China of psychological warfare as well as threatening international aviation safety in the region.

The incidents come close to a year after U.S. fighters had to shoot down a total of four high-flying aerial objects in American and Canadian airspace, including one identified as a Chinese government surveillance balloon.

The Taiwanese Ministry of Defense has reported several instances of Chinese balloons flying over the highly strategic Taiwan Strait since last month. At the start, these flights appeared to be sporadic, with the balloons remaining off Taiwan’s coast.

But there has been a surge in activity in more recent days, with balloons now passing over Taiwan itself.

The defense ministry in Taipei said it detected three Chinese balloons over the Taiwan Strait on Sunday. All three craft are said to have flown over the so-called Median Line in the Strait, after which one of the balloons are then claimed to have crossed the island, at its southernmost tip.


SOURCE: www.thedrive.com



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Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter
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