Election not for 'bully next door' China to decide: Taiwanese FM

Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu speaks with The Japan Times during an interview in Taipei earlier this monthCollected

Taiwan's foreign minister accused China on Saturday of trying to "shape" Taiwan's upcoming election, after Chinese military exercises were launched around the island.

"The PRC has made it clear it wants to shape Taiwan's coming national election," said foreign minister Joseph Wu on the ministry's official X account.

"Well, it's up to our citizens to decide, not the bully next door."

China announced earlier Saturday that it had "launched joint air and sea patrols and military exercises of the navy and air force around the island of Taiwan", according to state media outlet Xinhua.

By afternoon, Taiwan's military said it had detected 42 Chinese warplanes making incursions around the island's air defence zone, while eight Chinese vessels were also participating in the drills.

Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday also condemned China's military exercises, and said Beijing has used "various intimidating speeches and fake news... to openly intervene and interfere in the democratic election process in our country".

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns in the strongest terms China's authoritarian government's brutal efforts to interfere in the election," it said.

In the past year, Beijing has stepped up political and military pressures against Taiwan, sending in near-daily warplanes incursions and vessels around the island.

Saturday's military exercises are seen as a response to the visit of Taiwan's Vice President William Lai making stopovers in the United States -- first to New York en route to Paraguay, and then to San Francisco on his way back to Taipei.

Lai is also a presidential candidate for Taiwan's elections in January, and is currently the frontrunner.

China especially dislikes Lai, as he has been previously outspoken about Taiwan's status. Like the current President Tsai Ing-wen, Lai does not accept China's view that Taiwan belongs to it.

He has also described himself as a "pragmatic Taiwan independence worker" -- inciting comments from Beijing about him being a "troublemaker".