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U.S. concerned with China's attempts to influence Taiwan elections

2019/11/22 17:40

AIT Director Brent Christensen

Taipei, Nov. 22 (CNA) The United States is concerned by China's attempts to influence Taiwan's upcoming presidential and legislative elections through different means, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said Friday, as it urged the Taiwanese people to be vigilant over such efforts.

"As to the elections, of course, we are aware that China is attempting to apply pressure through various means on Taiwan, and it is an attempt to influence Taiwan's democratic process," AIT Director Brent Christensen said during a press event held at the AIT's Taipei Office.

Christensen also warned that the U.S. regards any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including boycotts and embargoes, as a threat to peace and security in the Western Pacific and of great concern to the U.S.

Answering media questions on election related issues, Christensen said the U.S. believes that "malign actors" are using disinformation campaigns to make the Taiwanese people lose faith in democratic institution.

"Obviously, we must all remain vigilant as the U.S. and Taiwan face the challenge of combating disinformation and cultivating media literacy," Christensen said, adding that Washington and Taipei have been working very closely to combat disinformation efforts.

Meanwhile, Christensen said the U.S. has confidence that Taiwan's upcoming elections will be judged free, fair and credible by the people of Taiwan.

He also emphasized that the U.S. engages with all the major parties in Taiwan on an equal footing and will work with any leader elected by the Taiwanese people.

On Sunday, China's first home-made aircraft carrier, known as Type 002, sailed through the Taiwan Strait together with a battle group. The passage happened the same day the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) announced its presidential ticket for the 2020 election.

Although Chinese navy spokesman Cheng Dewei (程德偉) said it was a testing and training mission and not directed at any specific target, some political analysts believe it was a warning to Taiwan.

On the other hand, Vincent Chen (陳文凡), Taiwan's deputy National Security Council (NSC) chief, said in October that Beijing is using social media, pro-China news media and internet celebrities in Taiwan to spread messages in an effort to influence Taiwan's elections.

The AIT press event was held primarily to announce the launching of its fourth Digital Dialogue project which solicits feedback from the people of Taiwan on what the U.S. and Taiwan should do to promote even closer ties.

"To participate, simply go to the AIT website and search for 'Digital Dialogues,'" Christensen said, adding that AIT, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan, will hold a special forum to discuss the suggestions received at the end of January 2020.

In his prepared speech, Christensen lauded good people-to-people ties between the U.S. and Taiwan, citing data on tourism and academic exchanges.

He also reiterated his four key priorities as AIT director: promoting the U.S.-Taiwan security relationship, the U.S.-Taiwan economic and commercial relationship, Taiwan's greater role in the international community and U.S.-Taiwan people-to-people relations.

In terms of security, Christensen cited the U.S. Department of State's approval of arms sales worth US$10 billion over the past year, including 106 M1A2 Abrams tanks and 66 F-16V fighter jets, as proof of a strong bilateral security relationship.

(By Emerson Lim)Enditem/AW