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In Taiwan, a Chinese satellite sows confusion, four days before the election

Ng Han Guan Associated Press In Mandarin, the message sent by Taiwan authorities read: “China launched a satellite that flew over southern airspace.” But the message caused confusion because the English translation instead referred to a “missile flyover”.

Katell Abiven – Agence France-Presse and Amber Wang – Agence France-Presse to Taipei

January 9, 2024

  • Asia

Tuesday's launch of a Chinese satellite sent an official alert message to all phones in Taiwan, four days before a presidential election crucial to the region's security.

Shortly after 3 p.m. local time, the alert, accompanied by a vibration, automatically appeared on the island's mobile phone screens, calling on people to “be careful”: “The China launched a satellite that flew over southern airspace.”

The message initially caused confusion because the English translation referred to a “missile flyover in Taiwan airspace.”

On the social network

“In Chinese it says satellite, but in English missile ?,” one of them wondered. “WHAT,” wrote another. “I’ve never seen that,” added a third.

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, who held a press conference at the same time, immediately wanted to be reassuring, confirming that it was indeed a satellite, the launch of which could cause the fall of “debris”. on the island.

“This is why our national alert center is launching this kind of alert, it has happened before,” he assured.

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Translation error

In a statement, the Ministry of Defense “apologized to the public,” citing an English translation error.

But the Minister of Foreign Affairs nevertheless considered that this launch was part of a series of activities carried out by Beijing with the aim of intimidating Taiwan. “With this type of threat against Taiwan, I think we need to be clear-headed and not get provoked,” he said.

The launch of the satellite dedicated to space observation was announced, on the Chinese side, by state television CCTV, which described the operation as a “success”.

The satellite called Einstein Probe (EP), which uses new X-ray detection technology, was launched at 3:03 p.m. (07:03 GMT) from the southwest of the country, the official Xinhua news agency said.

In April 2023, China banned all maritime navigation for a few hours in an area north of Taiwan, due to “possible falling debris” linked to the launch of a satellite.

But she had launched her alert a few days before the scheduled launch date, and not on the day itself.

The favorite candidate in the presidential election, outgoing Vice President Lai-Ching-te, accused Beijing on Tuesday of trying to influence the vote by “all means”, the result of which will be decisive for relations between the island and China.

Beijing interferes in “every election in Taiwan,” but this year its maneuvers are “the strongest” ever recorded, Lai Ching-te said at a press conference.

“In addition to political and military intimidation, China uses economic means, cognitive warfare, disinformation, threats and incentives,” assured the candidate, whose Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) asserts that Taiwan is already a de facto independent state.

“She is using all means to interfere in this election,” he insisted.

“No illusions”

China regularly deploys its military force by sending fighter jets, reconnaissance drones and warships around the island. In recent years, it has conducted several large-scale military exercises, notably to simulate a blockade of Taiwan.

This week four Chinese balloons crossed the median line that separates the autonomous island from China, according to the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense, while 10 planes and four warships were also detected.

China considers Taiwan to be one of its provinces that it has not yet managed to reunify with the rest of its territory since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.< /p>

Beijing says it favors “peaceful” reunification with Taiwan but does not rule out the military option to achieve this.

“As long as there is an equal and dignified relationship, Taiwan’s door will always be open” to dialogue and cooperation with China, Lai Ching-te said Tuesday .

“But we should have no illusions about peace. Accepting the Chinese principle of “one China” is not true peace,” he added, referring to the Chinese doctrine advocating the annexation of Taiwan.

“Peace without sovereignty is just like Hong Kong. This is a false peace. »

His main opponent Hou Yu-ih warned that the DPP would bring Taiwan “closer to war.” Mr. Hou is the candidate of the Kuomintang (KMT) party, which advocates closer relations with Beijing.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116