TAIPEI: Suspecting that China is behind a reported plot to assassinate one of the four presidential candidates, Taiwan's government has stepped up security measures as tensions mount before elections scheduled for March 23. Officials have increased the number of bodyguards assigned to each candidate from 39 to 45 as a precautionary measure. "Since China seemingly failed to deter the elections through military intimidation," says TIME's Oscar Chiang, "the Taiwanese are speculating that China is trying to disrupt elections by attempting to assassinate one of the candidates." Chiang reports that Taiwanese law stipulates that if any candidate is killed or disabled, the elections must be canceled. Taiwanese television reported today that three suspected "free-agents" who have recently entered the county are being tracked down. Their whereabouts are still unknown. Meanwhile, China continues to launch mock air and sea attacks near outlying islands. The U.S. has sent the aircraft carrier USS Independence and other warships to patrol the international waters off Taiwan to deter Beijing from further military action.