China satellite launch triggers Taiwan emergency phone alert

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A Chinese satellite launch triggered Taiwan’s emergency phone alert system on Tuesday, days before the self-ruled island holds a crucial presidential election that has heightened security worries around the region.

Chinese state media said that Beijing had successfully launched the “Einstein Probe satellite using the Long March-2C carrier rocket at the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre”.

“The satellite entered its designated orbit,” CCTV reported, adding that the launch was a “complete success”.

Around the same time in Taiwan, phones across the island sounded with an emergency alert.

“China launched a satellite which flew over the southern airspace,” said the alert in Chinese. “Public, please beware of your safety.”

However the English part of the message described it as an “air raid alert”, warning of a “missile flyover Taiwan airspace”.

The alert came as Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu was holding a press conference with foreign reporters in Taipei ahead of Saturday’s election.

He assured reporters that it was a satellite, explaining that the alert was issued because of possible “debris”.

“When a rocket is openly flying in our sky, some of their tubes or debris will fall in this region,” Wu told reporters.

“That’s the reason why our national alert centre will issue this kind of alert. It has happened before.”

Saturday’s election will be closely watched from Beijing to Washington as voters choose a new leader to steer the island in the face of an increasingly assertive Beijing.

Front-runner Lai Ching-te, Taiwan’s current vice president, accused Beijing of using “all means” to influence Saturday’s vote.

China has maintained a near-daily military presence around Taiwan, sending in fighter jets, naval vessels and drones.

The latest incursion came Monday when four balloons flew over the island, according to Taiwan’s defence ministry, while 10 Chinese warplanes and four naval vessels were also observed.

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said the satellite will be used to make astronomical observations, in particular “mysterious transient phenomena in the universe comparable to the flickering of fireworks”

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