Taiwan TV News Accidentally Reports China Has Invaded: 'Please Don't Panic'

A news ticker mistakenly declared "Communist forces strike New Taipei City with guided missiles," during an alarming mix-up at a Taiwanese television studio on Wednesday morning.

CTS, one of Taiwan's public broadcasters, blamed an unknown number of staff members for the blunder, which placed text from a pre-made disaster drill at the bottom of its 7 a.m. news bulletin.

"Naval vessel explodes, facilities, ships damaged at Port of Taipei," the breaking news read. "Arson and explosives placed by suspected special forces at Banqiao Station, no casualties," it continued.

After members of the public reportedly called the New Taipei City government to ask whether a Chinese invasion had really begun, CTS admitted its error.

Taiwan TV Mistakenly Announces Chinese Invasion
Missiles are launched from Thunderbolt-2000 multiple rocket systems during the annual Han Kuang war games in Taichung, Taiwan on July 16, 2020. Taiwan’s public broadcaster CTS apologized after a morning news bulletin on Wednesday declared that a Chinese attack on the island had begun. SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images

"The news ticker content shown earlier was part of a disaster prevention video created by the New Taipei Fire Department. Today, due to incorrect settings, the content of yesterday's video was mistakenly inserted," CTS said in a note pinned to the top of its YouTube live stream.

"Please don't panic! We hereby clarify and apologize!" the channel said.

In a more formal statement, CTS offered its sincere apologies for "gross negligence" leading to public panic. The channel called an emergency meeting and would conduct an internal review of the oversight, it said. It promised relevant personnel would be "severely disciplined."

There were no obvious signs of alarm on the streets of the capital Taipei, or New Taipei, Taiwan's most populous city, after the incident.

Since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, analysts have seen implications for Taiwan, an island democracy claimed by leaders in Beijing. A population that is sufficiently armed and highly motivated to resist could act as an additional layer of deterrence to prevent an attack, observers say.

China, which has never renounced the use of force to annex Taiwan, is learning lessons from the conflict in Europe, too, in a way that could alter its own war plans.

The CTS chyron warned that conflict with China was "in danger of breaking out," and that New Taipei officials had established a command and control center. "Chinese Communists make preparations for war, [Taiwan] president declares state of emergency effective 8 a.m. March 6," the text read.

In a statement to the press, the New Taipei Fire Department explained it had created the mock script in preparation for an annual national disaster drill on May 5. Each year, scenarios such as earthquakes, plane crashes, flash floods and landslides are included.

This year, with attention on the Russia-Ukraine war, Taiwan's Defense Ministry included a Taiwan Strait conflict as one of the circumstances, set in 2025. The exercise will test the emergency responses of each locality's fire department as simulated attacks take place on key infrastructure, the statement said.

The New Taipei Fire Department said it asked several TV stations to help produce mock footage, which would be played on a large screen on the day of the drill.

Chiu Kuo-cheng, Taiwan's defense minister, told reporters outside the island's legislature he was "quite surprised" by the news. A Defense Ministry spokesperson said there were no irregularities in the Taiwan Strait.

Update 4/20/22, 4:43 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to include further details.

Update 4/21/22, 7:20 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to provide further context.