Emergency alert spread throughout Taiwan following the launch of a Chinese satellite.

A mistranslation of the word ‘satellite’ to ‘missile’ in a message has caused confusion and alarm in Taiwan just days before the presidential election.

On Tuesday, a Chinese satellite launch triggered a nationwide emergency alert in Taiwan. The bilingual message, broadcast over loudspeakers and sent to every mobile phone, wrongly translated the word ‘satellite’ as ‘missile’ in the English portion. The message warned people to “be aware” and claimed that a missile was flying over Taiwan airspace.

At the same time, Chinese media reported the successful launch of a scientific satellite called the Einstein probe. Military observers online showed its trajectory flying southeast of Taiwan’s southern point at a high altitude.

The launch and alert came at a time of heightened anxiety in Taiwan due to the upcoming presidential elections and threats from Beijing. Chinese authorities had not given prior notice of the satellite launch.

The Taiwan Ministry of Defence later confirmed that it was a satellite, not a missile, and apologized for the inaccurate English translation in the alert. Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, described the launch as a “grey zone” activity, similar to China’s military flights into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone.

Opposition parties accused the Taiwan government and defence ministry of fearmongering. There were also some confusion and bemusement over the Chinese portion of the text, as it shared characters with the word “Vietnam,” leading people to think the satellite was much further away.

During a press conference in Taiwan, Wu initially misread the alert, telling the crowd that a satellite launch had flown over Vietnam and was nothing to worry about.

Source: The Guardian

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