China accuses Taiwan of ‘hyping up’ military threat ahead of elections

Taiwan’s presidential and parliamentary polls on January 13 are expected to shape the island’s relations with Beijing.

Taiwan's vice president and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) presidential candidate
Lai Ching-te, Taiwan's vice president and the ruling DPP's presidential candidate, in Kaohsiung, Taiwan [File: Ann Wang/Reuters]

China has accused Taiwan of deliberately “hyping up” a military threat from Beijing for electoral gains ahead of the island’s January polls.

“The Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] authorities are deliberately hyping up the so-called ‘military threat from the mainland’ and exaggerating tensions,” China’s Ministry of National Defense spokesperson Wu Qian said on Thursday.

“This is entirely to seek electoral gain,” he added, accusing Taiwan of using a “familiar electoral playbook to stoke confrontation and manipulate the election”.

On Thursday, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said it had detected 12 Chinese military aircraft flying over the Taiwan Strait, the sensitive median line separating Taiwan from China.

China has been sending warplanes and vessels around Taiwan on a near-daily basis, with Taipei reporting an uptick in Beijing’s military activity in the Taiwan Strait before the January 13 elections.

China claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory. The presidential and parliamentary elections are expected to shape the island’s relations with Beijing.

One of the main themes in the run-up to the closely watched vote is how the presidential candidates will handle relations with China.

The Chinese government dislikes the DPP candidate, current Vice President Lai Ching-te, believing he is a separatist and has rejected his calls for talks.

Taiwanese officials have repeatedly raised concerns about election interference and misinformation as Beijing, in the past four years, has intensified military pressure to assert its sovereignty claim.

During a televised policy presentation on Tuesday, Lai reiterated warnings of election interference by Beijing.

“It is easier to buy or cheat than to rob,” Lai said, accusing the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) of “borrowing China’s power to gain ruling power”.

KMT candidate Hou Yu-ih, who has promised to create closer ties to Beijing, has called the election a choice “between war and peace”.

Hou Yu-ih, a candidate for Taiwan's presidency,
Hou Yu-ih, a candidate for Taiwan’s presidency, from the main opposition party KMT, in New Taipei City [Ann Wang/Reuters]

Wu, the spokesperson, also said China’s People’s Liberation Army knew Taiwan’s military movements well.

“We will, as always, take all necessary measures to resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added.

Wu declined to comment on the Chinese balloons that Taiwan reported drifting across the strait’s median line, which previously served as an unofficial barrier between the two sides.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies