The launch of a Chinese satellite that passed over Taiwan, leading to an incorrect air raid alert, has stirred a political uproar on the island just days before presidential elections.
While Taiwan’s presidential office asserted that it did not perceive the launch of the Chinese satellite, whose rocket traversed southern Taiwan, as an attempt at interference before the poll, the main opposition party raised questions about the issuance of the alert.
In response to the mistaken air raid alert on Tuesday, following the passage of the Chinese rocket carrying a science satellite over southern Taiwan at an altitude exceeding 500 km (310 miles), the defense ministry subsequently apologized for the erroneous English translation that used the term “missile.”
Addressing concerns of election interference, Taiwan’s presidential office, in a statement released shortly before midnight on Tuesday, declared that it did not believe there was a political motive behind the satellite launch. The statement emphasized that after the analysis by the national security team and consideration of evaluations from various international allies, political motives could be ruled out.
Despite the air raid alarm triggered by the rocket launch, Taiwan, which China considers its territory against the strong objections of the Taipei government, has consistently accused Beijing of attempting to interfere in the elections, whether through military, political, economic, or other means. China has dismissed these allegations as “dirty tricks.”
Responding to inquiries, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office stated in writing to Reuters on Wednesday that the satellite launch was a routine annual arrangement and had “nothing to do with the Taiwan election.” It pointed out that China had conducted two satellite launches in early December from a site in Inner Mongolia, neither of which flew over Taiwan or prompted an alert.
Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who monitors space launches, informed Reuters that the first stage of the rocket landed well within China, and the second stage flew over Taiwan at an altitude comparable to that of the International Space Station. He added, “It was far up in space and indeed entered orbit well before crossing the coast of mainland China. So I think this is an overreaction by Taiwan. Satellites fly over Taiwan every day