TAIPEI (Reuters) – The United States is concerned about China’s attempts to influence Taiwan’s presidential and parliamentary elections, the leading U.S. official in Taiwan said on Friday, as China stepped up pressure on the self-ruled island ahead of the vote in January.

Brent Christensen, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, speaks in Taipei, Taiwan November 22,2019 REUTERS/Fabian Hamacher

The remark came days after Taiwan denounced China for trying to interfere in its democratic procedure ahead of the Jan. 11 surveys, including sailing an attack aircraft carrier group through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday.

” We understand that China is attempting to use pressure through numerous methods on Taiwan. Certainly, these attempts to affect Taiwan’s democratic process are of concern,” stated Brent Christensen, the de facto U.S. ambassador to Taiwan.

” We think that malign stars are using disinformation campaigns to make individuals despair in democratic organizations,” he informed press reporters in Taipei.

Beijing has in current months stepped up efforts to “reunify” what it considers a stubborn province, flying regular bomber patrols around it and seeking to separate it diplomatically.

The United States, like most nations, has no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, however is bound by law to assist offer the island with the methods to safeguard itself. It is democratic Taiwan’s strongest backer on the worldwide phase.

Christensen said any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by besides tranquil methods, including boycotts or embargoes, was of “severe issue” to the United States.

Taiwan and the United States have extremely close ties, he added, noting this year’s $10 billion in U.S. arms sales to the island.

” We have, I think, a strong relationship in security matters that we prepare for will just grow stronger.”

Speaking later on in the day, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said China’s military hazard was growing.

” China’s military preparation against Taiwan has not been slowing down. In reality, it’s been heightening,” he informed reporters.

President Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party is leading in the polls, ahead of her primary rival, Han Kuo-yu of the China-friendly Kuomintang celebration.

Tsai’s federal government has consistently warned of Beijing’s project to affect the vote, consisting of nabbing more of Taiwan’s few staying diplomatic allies and a “warfare” of disinformation to deceive voters.

Chinese President Xi Jinping stated in January that China booked the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control but would strive to accomplish peaceful “reunification”. [nL3N1Z20JT]

Beijing thinks Tsai of promoting the island’s official self-reliance, which Xi has actually warned would result in a “severe catastrophe”.

Brent Christensen, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, speaks in Taipei, Taiwan November 22,2019 REUTERS/Fabian Hamacher

China described the carrier sailing as regular and not targeted at anyone in specific, dismissing Taiwan’s complaints.

Taiwan has lost 7 diplomatic allies to China given that Tsai took office in 2016, leaving 15 nations that acknowledge the island.

China has actually sent out about 2,000 bomber patrols a year to the narrow Taiwan Strait separating the two sides, the island’s defense minister, Yen Teh-fa, told parliament recently.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; additional reporting by Yimou Lee; Modifying by Gerry Doyle and Simon Cameron-Moore

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