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US Working With Taiwan on Elections    11/22 06:27

   TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- The top U.S. representative in Taiwan says Washington 
is working with it to combat efforts by Beijing to influence upcoming elections 
on the island.

   The U.S. is "aware that China is attempting to apply pressure through 
various means on Taiwan ... to influence Taiwan's democratic process," Brent 
Christensen told reporters on Friday.

   "We believe that malign actors are using disinformation campaigns to make 
people lose faith in democratic institutions," said Christensen, who serves as 
the de facto U.S. ambassador to Taipei.

   The U.S. and Taiwan have been "working very closely to combat these 
disinformation efforts" by sharing information and experience and mobilizing 
civil society, he said.

   Independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen is seeking a second term in the 
Jan. 11 vote for head of state and lawmakers.

   China is believed to strongly favor Tsai's main opponent in the race, Han 
Kuo-yu of the Beijing-friendly Nationalist Party.

   Self-governing Taiwan split from China in 1949 and transitioned to full 
democracy in the 1990s. China claims the island as its own territory, which it 
threatens to annex by military force, and opposes all official contact between 
the U.S. and the island.

   Despite the lack of formal diplomatic relations, the U.S. is legally bound 
to ensure the island can defend itself and to treat all threats to it as 
matters of "grave concern."

   Christensen's remarks came days after Tsai told reporters that China's 
Communist leaders were "using every means they can" to interfere in the 
election campaign.

   China's previous efforts to influence Taiwan's democracy have yielded mixed 
results and could become a liability for Han, who in March met with Chinese 
officials on a visit to China, Macao and Hong Kong and has struggled to shake 
accusations of collusion with Beijing.

   Han held an early lead in public opinion surveys but has trailed Tsai, often 
by several percentage points, since June.

   Several of the National candidates for at-large seats in the legislature --- 
those that are distributed according to the party's proportion of the popular 
vote --- also have strong China connections and have spoken in favor of 
unification with China.

   One, retired Lt. Gen. Wu Sz-huai, has been heavily criticized for leading a 
delegation of retired officers to a ceremony held at Beijing's Great Hall of 
the People, at which he stood for the Chinese national anthem and listened to 
an address by President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.

   Wu was also a leader of a pro-China group that staged violent protests 
outside the legislature last year, at one point invading a nearby children's 
hospital.

   Those protests were ostensibly sparked by plans to reduce pension benefits 
for retired officers and other public servants that had been criticized for 
being overly generous. Some accused China of spreading misinformation 
exaggerating the size and impact of the cuts.

   Election interference would be a continuation of Beijing's unrelenting 
campaign to undermine Tsai's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party 
government through increasing diplomatic, military and economic pressure.

   That has included wooing away Taiwan's remaining handful of diplomatic 
allies and barring its participation in international gatherings, in a campaign 
to demoralize and isolate the island.

   A total of seven countries have switched recognition to China since Tsai was 
elected in 1996, leaving just 15 nations that maintain formal ties with Taiwan.

   China has also stepped up its military threat through words and deeds.

   The sailing of China's Type 001A aircraft carrier and accompanying ships 
through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday was viewed by some as its latest display of 
saber rattling.


(KR)

 
 
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