Beijing says island �risks war� if it pushes for independence

Listen to the original broadcast in Cantonese

China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian as he prepares to contest a presidential ballot in March, warning that the island risks war if it pursues formal independent nationhood, RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese services report.

�If the Taiwan authorities collude with all splittist forces to openly engage in pro-independence activities and challenge the mainland and the one-China principle, the use of force may become unavoidable,� the English-language China Daily newspaper quoted a vice-minister of Beijing�s Taiwan Affairs Office as saying.

Separatists would �pay a high cost if they think we will not use force,� Wang Zaixi was quoted as saying.

Wang, speaking at a seminar on cross-Straits relations, added that �the people of Taiwan are our brothers and sisters. We are not willing to meet at the battleground.�

Chen, whose opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to political prominence on a pro-independence platform, is one of Beijing�s least favorite Taiwan politicians.

Chen�s popularity has increased since he came up with plans for a new constitution and a law on referendums that could conceivably lead to citizens voting on Taiwanese independence.

In his speech, Wang condemned Chen�s plans as �extremely dangerous behaviors.�

�That Chen is using... presidential running tools to get himself re-elected and to push our Taiwanese compatriots to the brink of conflict with the motherland,� Wang was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.

The United States, which sells arms to Taipei but does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country, appealed for calm.

�The United States continues to urge Taiwan as well as the People�s Republic of China to refrain from actions or statements that increase tensions or make dialogue more difficult to achieve,� the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said in a statement. �The United States does not support Taiwan independence.�

China insists that its major diplomatic partners subscribe to its �One China Policy,� which involves non-recognition of Taipei and a commitment not to actively support pro-independence opinion in the island.

Washington shifted diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei in 1979. Taiwan has been governed separately from China since 1949, when the defeated Nationalist Party, or KMT, fled there after losing a civil war with the Communists on the mainland.

The ruling KMT�originally a socialist-style authoritarian party formed along the same lines as the Chinese and Russian Communist Parties�made the transition to democratic government during the 1990s after 40 years of rapid economic growth. It lost the presidency to Chen in 2000, and its majority in the legislature in 2001 following a split in the party.#####


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