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China warns of military clash with taiwan { July 30 2004 }

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China warns of military clash with Taiwan
Fri 30 July, 2004 08:11

By John Ruwitch

BEIJING (Reuters) - Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian risks war with China if he pushes for a new constitution by 2008, but can guarantee security if he recognises the island as part of China, the China Daily has quoted a top official as saying.

The island's security lies not in building up an arsenal of missiles and submarines but in offering assurances that Taiwan is not planning to declare independence, Vice Minister of the Taiwan Affairs Office Wang Zaixi told the newspaper on Friday.

Across the Taiwan Strait, the independence-leaning Chen for the first time commented on a proposed "reunification law" the mainland government is considering that could provide the legal basis for attack, saying he was very concerned.

The volleys were the latest in the war of words between China and the democratic island it claims as a breakaway province to be recovered by force if necessary. Tensions have simmered since Chen's election in March to a second four-year term.

Beijing sees Chen's goal of adopting a new constitution by the end of his term in 2008 as a drive towards a formal declaration of independence, and has been preparing for a possible military showdown.

"New tensions and even a serious crisis in the cross-Straits situation may arise if Chen obstinately pursues his timetable," Wang told the China Daily.

The Taiwan leader took part in a rare submarine dive on Thursday to boost military morale days after arch-rival China completed a mock invasion of the island and to assure Washington of Taiwan's commitment to buying U.S. weaponry.

The drill, following China's war games off the island, was intended to boost public support for a huge arms purchase deal with the United States that includes eight diesel-engine submarines, analysts said.

Tension between China and the United States over Taiwan has been rising recently.

U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice visited Beijing this month and Chinese officials focused on Taiwan in talks. Days after her visit China expressed grave concern that U.S. support for Taiwan was undermining its one-China policy.


Beijing and Taipei have been diplomatic rivals since 1949 when the Nationalists fled to Taiwan at the end of a civil war.

While the mainland criticised Taiwan's plan for a new constitution, Chen said a mainland proposal to adopt legislation mandating Taiwan's reunification would provide Beijing with a legal basis to attack the island.

"China is undertaking a legal battle. If Taiwan does not follow, it will undertake a military battle," Chen was quoted by the United Daily News as saying on a visit to southern Tainan late on Thursday.

"The reunification law is a bid to obtain a basis to attack Taiwan," he said.

China fears Chen is pushing Taiwan towards independence even though Chen has vowed not to declare sovereignty.

Wang said the island's plan for a new constitution was the biggest threat to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

"We cannot completely rule out the possibility though it is not at all what we hoped for," Wang said of military conflict.

"There will be no way for us to break the ice in political ties in the coming four years unless Chen returns to the one-China principle," Wang said.

"What we can do is just work hard to prevent bilateral relations from deteriorating."

Beijing demands Taiwan recognise that there is only one China, of which it is a part.

Taiwan has been a major factor in Sino-U.S. relations since the United States switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei in 1979, but pledged to help the island defend itself by supplying weapons.

Wang said it was an "unwise move" for Taiwan to build up its military with high-tech weapons from the United States.

"The security of Taiwan depends on how Chen deals with the one-China principle rather than buying more aircraft and missiles for the island," Wang said.

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