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China Objects to Clinton's Taiwan Visit

  • Luis Ramirez

China is objecting to former President Bill Clinton's plans to meet Sunday with Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian in Taiwan.

China scolded the former U.S. leader who is on a goodwill visit to China. While there he signed an agreement for his private foundation to donate $70,000 worth of drugs to treat Chinese children infected with HIV.

Mr. Clinton also praised China's efforts to battle the spread of HIV-AIDS, saying the country had made impressive progress in building a system of care for victims of the disease.

While some officials expressed gratitude for Mr. Clinton's goodwill gestures, Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan expressed displeasure over the former president's plans to visit Taiwan and meet with leader Chen Shui-bian.

"As a former U.S. president, he should know China's position on the Taiwan issue," he said. "He should honor his commitment to the Chinese government, including abiding by the one-China policy."

China opposes any gesture by nations or foreign political figures that appears to lend legitimacy to the government of Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory.

China has threatened to invade Taiwan if the self-governed island moves toward formal independence. The threat has become more real to many in Taiwan as China prepares to enact an anti-secession law that some analysts fear may provide Beijing with a license to attack the island.

But relations between Taiwan and the mainland have shown signs of warming lately. On Thursday, Taiwan's President Chen joined with an opposition party leader in signing a statement that says they do not rule out any type of future relationship with mainland China. Also, Mr. Chen repeated past assurances that he would not seek to drop "China" from the island's formal name and would stick by past promises that he would not push for formal independence.

In addition, the two sides are considering talks on direct cargo flights between the mainland and the island.

Taiwan has banned direct air service for decades, fearing Communist forces might use aircraft to spy on or attack the island. Tensions appeared to have eased recently when direct passenger flights took off for the first time in 56 years early this month during the lunar new year holiday.