Taiwan is facing a steady "drip, drip" of Chinese pressure ahead of the inauguration of its next president in May, with officials in Taipei fearing Beijing could further squeeze the island's room to maneuver without resorting to direct conflict.

Since current Vice President Lai Ching-te won the presidency in January — China views Lai as a separatist — Beijing has snatched away a diplomatic ally, altered an air route in the narrow Taiwan Strait, and begun regular coast guard patrols around the Taiwan-controlled Kinmen islands, which hug the Chinese coast.

China claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, over the island's strong rejections.