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US 'deeply concerned' about China's hybrid warfare threat to Taiwan

Blinken says free speech on platforms such as Twitter ' incredibly important to Biden administration'

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday (May 3) said that the U.S. is "deeply concerned" about China's use of hybrid warfare against Taiwan and that Washington is taking actions to defend freedom of the press in Taiwan.

After delivering remarks to the media in recognition of World Press Freedom Day at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, D.C., Blinken was asked to comment on how the State Department plans to avoid the erosion of Taiwan's press freedom amid Chinese pressure on media outlets. The second part of the question was, given Tesla CEO Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter and his business ties to China, whether Blinken shares the concern of others that this may enable Beijing to censor or influence critics on the social media platform.

Blinken responded that "Taiwan is quite literally on the front lines of the PRC's (People's Republic of China) hybrid warfare" in terms of disinformation and cyber attacks. He asserted that these activities are meant to "distort the information environment and democratic processes."

To counter these efforts, Blinken said the U.S. has partnered with Taiwanese authorities and civic society organizations to "support independent, fact-based journalism to try to build societal resilience to disinformation and other forms of foreign interference." He stressed that the U.S. is closely monitoring the situation and will "continue to work on it."

In response to the question about Musk's acquisition of Twitter, Blinken emphasized that it is a private company and that he could not comment on hypothetical scenarios. In general, Blinken said that free speech, including on such social media platforms, is "incredibly important to the Biden administration."

The secretary of state said his government is "deeply concerned" when it comes to China's "misuse of technology to try to do things like increase surveillance, harassment, intimidation, censorship of citizens, journalists, activists, and others, and that includes abroad."

He pointed out that there is currently a "total imbalance" between the West and China, with the latter using the freedom of the press ensured by countries in the former to "spread propaganda, to spread disinformation, and ultimately, that's not a sustainable position." He argued that China is now further exploiting democratic systems to "stalk, harass, to threaten critics who are outside the PRC's territory."

Blinken closed by stating that the U.S. condemns this behavior and has taken "actions against these efforts and continues to defend the principles of free press; open, secure, reliable interoperable internet; and the benefits that flow from them."