China: No stepped up alert after Taiwan polls


BEIJING: The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has not changed its level of alert over Taiwan's presidential elections, a spokesman for China's Defence Ministry said yesterday. 

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian narrowly won re-election on Saturday, a day after he was shot in a mysterious assassination attempt, but opposition leader Lien Chan has declared the vote unfair and demanded a recount. 

“I have not heard of the military receiving any orders to change its level of alert,” a ministry spokesman said, when asked if the alert had been heightened. 

He offered no further comment on a report in Hong Kong's South China Morning Post that said China had ordered its army on combat alert and was ready to strike Taiwan if the island's election dispute intensifies. 

The newspaper quoted an unidentified Chinese source as saying President Hu Jintao could cite the newly revised state constitution to declare a state of emergency over Taiwan, paving the way for a military attack. 

The order was issued on Saturday, the newspaper said. 

Beijing has ordered government departments in the capital and the coastal provinces of Fujian, Guangdong and Zhejiang to put more officials on duty, it said.  

In a military operation, these provinces would serve as bases for missile attacks. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry declined to comment.  

The Cabinet spokesman referred questions to the Taiwan Affairs Office, where telephones rang unanswered. 

China had said it did not care who won but analysts said it clearly preferred the more moderate Lien.  

Chen riled China with the island's first ever referendum, which was held alongside the presidential elections but failed to pass. 

But a PLA source said there were no signs an attack was imminent, although strategic planning was going on as usual. 

“We are on normal alert,” the source said.  

“But we are making preparations for the worst-case scenario,” said the source, referring to China's long-standing opposition to an independence bid by Taiwan. 

China considers Taiwan a wayward province that must be returned to the fold and has threatened to attack the self-governed, democratic island of 23 million if it formally declares independence. 

China's Taiwan Affairs Office said in a statement on Sunday it was “closely following” the situation on the island. 

“As far as the mainland is concerned, the Taiwan elections are not yet over and we are still in the stage where we are watching developments,” said Niu Jun, a professor of international relations at Peking University. – Reuters

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