sands payment-Taiwan's leader cites threat of Beijing's 'cognitive warfare'
HENGCHUN, Taiwan: Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday China was conducting "cognitive warfare" by spreading misinformation, in addition to its regular incursions into nearby waters and airspace intended at intimidating the self-governing island.
Experts have warned that China has made substantial inroads within Taiwanese mass media and could plant false narratives on social media and elsewhere to erode military morale and public confidence in the event it makes good on its threat to use force to take control of the island it claims as its own territory.
"The situation around the Taiwan Strait continues to be tense, and the threat has never ceased," Tsai said in a speech during a visit to an air defense and missile battalion in the eastern county of Hualien.
"In addition to frequent intrusions by aircraft and ships, China also conducted cognitive warfare, using false information to create disturbance in minds of people," she added.
Tsai also referenced Beijing's use of drones "to increase pressure on Taiwan's military," following incidents in which Taiwanese troops based on islands just off the Chinese coast warned off and, in once case, shot down unmanned aerial vehicles that had been hovering over their positions.Get the latest news
Anti-drone defenses are included in a 12.9-percent increase in Taiwan's budget for next year. This will raise total spending to $13.8 billion, or roughly 2.4 percent of the island's gross domestic product.
Also on Tuesday, Taiwan launched military exercises on the Hengchun Peninsula in the island's far south, simulating ground warfare against an invading enemy, aided by Apache attack helicopters.
Alongside promoting Taiwan's high-tech economy, Tsai has made strengthening the island's defenses a key feature of her second and last four-year term in office. That includes bulking up the domestic defense industry, as well as procuring more weaponry from the United States, including fighter jets and missiles, to resist a Chinese attack or attempted blockade.
Last Friday, US President Joe Biden's administration announced a $1.09-billion arms sale, including $355 million for Harpoon air-to-sea missiles and $85 million for Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, the US State Department said.
The largest portion of the sale, however, is a $655-million logistics support package for Taipei's surveillance radar program, which provides air defense warnings. Early warning air defense systems have become more important as China has stepped up military drills near Taiwan.
Tensions that have been running high ever since Tsai's election in 2016. It spiked last month when US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei. In response, China fired missiles into the Taiwan Strait and over the island into the Pacific, and sent ships and planes across the midline of the strait that had long been a buffer against outright conflict.
Since Pelosi's trip, there have been at least two other congressional visits and several by governors of US states, all of which China condemned. Washington also sent a pair of guided missile cruisers through the strait in defiance of China's claims that the waterway, one of the busiest in the world, belongs to it entirely.
Responding to the US arms sale on Tuesday, China's defense ministry accused Washington of "making trouble," adding: "We demand that the U.S. side immediately withdraw the above-mentioned arms sales plan to Taiwan and immediately cease military ties between the US and Taiwan."