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A Missile, a Rocket or a Satellite? Chinese Flyover Sows Confusion in Taiwan.

Taiwan’s defense ministry issued an urgent alert Tuesday about a Chinese satellite launched on a rocket flying over the island, an alarming message that interrupted the final days of campaigning before a major election and spurred accusations of a political ploy.

The alert was sent to mobile phones across the island of 23 million people, where presidential and legislative assembly elections will be held Saturday. In English, the initial alert cautioned there was a missile flyover — an error quickly corrected by Taiwanese officials.

“It was a satellite, not a missile,” President Tsai Ing-wen said during a campaign stop in the southern city of Kaohsiung. “Don’t worry.”

Taiwan’s defense ministry issued a statement about an hour later, apologizing for the mistake. But by then, the warning had created an awkward scene for the governing Democratic Progressive Party or D.P.P.

In Taipei, the capital, Joseph Wu, the foreign minister, was addressing dozens of reporters from the international press just before the warning. “We need to stay responsible, we need to stay moderate in order to prevent the conflict from happening between Taiwan and China,” he said.

Moments later, cellphones around the room buzzed and dinged, silencing questions with a message in English about a missile, and in Mandarin about a rocket carrying a satellite.

Chinese state television broadcast video of the launch — one of many from a location well known to Taiwanese officials. But the text alert suggested that Beijing had escalated its harassment of the island before an especially close Taiwanese election.

China has a long history of targeting Taiwan during important campaigns with threatening language, disinformation, and other influence operations, seeking