May 10, 2019 / 4:00 AM / 4 months ago

Taiwan says China has stepped up infiltration efforts

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday that China has stepped up efforts to infiltrate and gain influence in the self-ruled and democratic island, and asked national security agencies to counter the campaign.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks before Hai-an No. 10 maritime exercises simulating fending off terror attacks and invasion at Taipei Port, New Taipei City, Taiwan May 4, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Tsai, speaking to reporters after a national security meeting, said China’s influence operations included attempts to interfere with elections and fake news campaigns. Taiwan holds presidential elections next January.

She did not give details of specific incidents but said Taiwan’s national security agencies would be finding ways to tackle China’s moves.

Tsai also said Taiwan would deter military aggression in the Taiwan Strait, vowing to boost defence capabilities, including upgrading military equipment and a recently launched programme to build submarines.

“The Chinese Communist Party continues to demonstrate provocative actions in the Taiwan Strait, destroying the status quo across the Taiwan Strait,” Tsai said.

Her comments follow a spike in cross-strait tensions last month when China’s military staged extensive drills with warships, bombers and reconnaissance aircraft around the island.

Taiwan scrambled jets to monitor the drills, which a senior U.S. official at the time described as “coercion” and a threat to regional stability.

Beijing suspects Tsai is pushing for the island’s formal independence and has steadily stepped up political and military pressure.

Any formal independence move is a red line for China, which considers Taiwan its sacred territory has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.

Tsai says she wants to maintain the status quo with China but will defend Taiwan’s security and democracy.

Meeting Taiwan and Chinese reporters at a forum in Beijing on Friday, Wang Yang, the Communist Party’s fourth-ranked leader, said there was no future for Taiwan independence attempts and no point trying to rely on “foreign powers”.

“Time and power are on the mainland’s side,” the state news agency Xinhua cited Wang as saying.

China reserves the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control but will strive to achieve peaceful reunification with the island that has a bright future under Chinese rule, President Xi Jinping said in January.

The U.S. House of Representatives this week unanimously backed legislation supporting Taiwan as members of the U.S. Congress push for a sharper approach to relations with Beijing. China has demanded the legislation be withdrawn.

Reporting by Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Writing by Farah Master and Greg Torode; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel

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