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Premier Wen Jiabao Warns Taiwan Not to Misuse Democracy
(7 December 2003)

China's Premier Wen Jiabao, at the start of a four-day visit to the United States, said Beijing would never allow Taiwan to use aspirations for democracy as a cover for separatism.
Wen, who visited U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in snow-swept New York before going to Washington, intends to seek assurances from the Bush administration that it will rein in Taiwan. He also will face criticism of China's trade and currency policies while promoting closer economic cooperation.

Tensions have risen across the Taiwan strait since last month, when the island's "parliament" passed a law allowing referendums. Taiwan "President" Chen Shui-bian has backed off an independence vote but instead planned a referendum in March asking the mainland to withdraw ballistic missiles aimed at the island.

Asked about the March referendum, Wen said the mainland understood "the aspiration of the people in Taiwan for democracy."

"However, the essence of the problem now is that the separatist forces within the Taiwan authorities attempt to use democracy only as a cover to split Taiwan away from China and this is what we will never tolerate."

But he said that as long "as there is still a glimmer of hope, the Chinese government will not give up its efforts for a peaceful unification and a peaceful settlement."

In response, Annan emphasized that the United Nations maintained a one China policy but that differences needed to be settled without "any resort to violence."

Wen arrived in a 20-car motorcade, about half of it made up of U.S. security agents. He spoke to Annan about Iraq, Korea, U.N. reform, AIDS and development in Africa, where Wen will visit after his trip to the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Wen is the highest ranking Chinese leader to visit the United States since Beijing wrapped up a sweeping power transition to a younger generation headed by President Hu Jintao in March.

Taiwan has emerged as a cloud over ties between the world's most populous nation and its most powerful, one that risks undermining Chinese support for U.S. efforts like the war on terror and the Korean peninsula nuclear crisis, analysts said.

Chinese military officials have threatened war if Taiwan moved toward independence -- even at the risk of boycotts of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and economic recession.

Seeking to ease tensions, a U.S. envoy carried a message to Taipei last week that Washington did not want to see an independence referendum take place, administration officials said.

Vice Foreign Minister Zhou Wenzhong has said Wen, who meets President Bush on Tuesday in Washington, would seek a more forceful statement that the United States clearly "opposed" Taiwan steps toward independence.

That would mark a nuanced but significant shift from the U.S. line that it "does not support" independence moves, analysts said, a position Secretary of State Colin Powell reiterated on Friday.

"If the U.S. makes a clear statement opposing Taiwan independence, then it will help Sino-U.S. relations," said Jia Qingguo, professor at Peking University of International Studies.

"But if the U.S. does not even support China on the core issues ... China will have a hard time fully cooperating with the United States in other areas." 

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