China focused most of its attention on tensions across the Taiwan Strait during a visit by U.S National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on Thursday, playing down U.S. concerns over the North Korean nuclear standoff and warning that it would "not sit by and do nothing" if Taiwan moved towards independence.
"The Chinese people are seriously concerned and dissatisfied," with U.S. moves with regard to Taiwan, especially its plan to sell advanced weapons to Taiwan, former President and Central Military Commission (CMC) leader Jiang Zemin told Rice during their meeting in Beijing.
"The Chinese people desire peace and do not want war. We will adhere to the basic principle of 'peaceful reunification and one country, two systems' but will never tolerate 'Taiwan independence'," Jiang was reported as saying by official media.
"China's sovereignty and territorial integrity are paramount. The will of 1.3 billion Chinese people should not be violated," Jiang was paraphrased on Chinese state-run television station CCTV as saying.
In reply, Rice conveyed President George W. Bush's reaffirmation of U.S. backing for the qne-China policy, which recognizes Taiwan as a part of China and his "non-support" for Taiwan independence, a White House official told reporters.
But she also reiterated the U.S. commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act, under which the United States pledges to defend Taiwan if it is attacked.
Taiwan has been governed separately from mainland China since 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government fled to the island after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong's communists. But Beijing still regards it as a part of its territory awaiting re-unification.
Rice also raised concerns over human rights, religious freedom and weapons proliferation, including the case of retired military doctor Jiang Yanyong who exposed Beijing's coverup of last year's SARS epidemic and has been detained in an undisclosed location since June 1. Jiang recently called for a government reassessment of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.
As Rice arrived in Beijing at the start of a two-day visit, hundreds of homeless petitioners arrived outside city government offices in the capital to protest at forced evictions by the authorities. Protesters told RFA's Mandarin service that some people were beaten and roughly handled during scuffles with police.
During a meeting with Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing Thursday, Rice was quoted as saying that the U.S. was ready to maintain a high-level dialogue with the China and deepen substantive cooperation in the areas of economy and trade, non-proliferation, and the North Korea nuclear issue.
"China is an important power in Asia and globally and we have an excellent relationship with China," Rice told reporters ahead of her meeting with Li. "It's a relationship that we think is built on mutual trust and an understanding that China and the United States need to cooperate."
But official Chinese media made scant mention of the North Korean nuclear crisis, in which two rounds of Beijing-brokered six-party talks have so far failed to make substantive progress. North Korean media have so far not reported Rice's three-country Asian tour, the FBIS monitoring service said.
North Korea viewed the outcome of the last round of six-way talks in June as broadly positive, but said a U.S. proposal showed there was little new on offer to resolve the crisis. The United States offered security guarantees and South Korean aid in return for North Korea agreeing to dismantle its nuclear programmes, including a uranium enrichment scheme the North denies it has.
Rice is scheduled to leave Beijing Friday following meetings with President Hu Jintao and former foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan. She will fly to South Korea for the third leg of her tour, which began in Japan.