China’s defence ministry on Thursday accused Taiwan’s leadership of “hyping up” claims that Beijing is interfering in the self-ruled island’s upcoming presidential election. “The DPP authorities have been hyping up that China’s mainland is interfering in its elections,” ministry spokesperson Wu Qian told a press conference, using the initials of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party. He accused Taipei of trying to “stoke confrontation and manipulate the election”. One of the main themes in the lead-up to Taiwan’s closely watched January 13 vote is how the presidential candidates will handle relations with China. Taiwanese officials have repeatedly raised concerns about election interference and misinformation, and the vote comes against the backdrop of an escalating pressure campaign by Beijing, which claims the island as part of its territory. Several Chinese balloons have been detected moving across the sensitive median line separating Taiwan from China throughout December, Taipei has said. Asked about the balloons on Thursday, Beijing’s Wu dismissed allegations of interference. Taipei’s claims, he said, were “all familiar pages from their old playbook” but that “more and more people in Taiwan” see through them. During a televised policy presentation on Tuesday, the DPP’s frontrunner candidate Lai Ching-te reiterated warnings of election interference by Beijing. “It is easier to buy or cheat than to rob,” Lai said, accusing the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) of “borrowing China’s power to gain ruling power”. KMT candidate Hou Yu-ih, who vows closer ties with Beijing, has in turn called the election a choice “between war and peace”.