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Chinese PM: Anti-Secession Law Not a License for War


China says its anti-secession law, passed Monday at the annual legislative session, is not a license to go war with Taiwan. The law passed unanimously as international concerns mounted over Beijing's possible plans to attack the democratically ruled island.

China's anti-secession law provides the legal basis for China to resort to "non-peaceful means" if self-ruled Taiwan should declare formal independence.

It passed unanimously Monday at the end of the annual legislative session of the National People's Congress. In closing remarks, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao sought to portray the bill as a measure to reunite the island with the mainland. Mr. Wen says the law is not targeted at the people of Taiwan, but at the forces of independence on the island. He says the law is not a war bill.

Despite Mr. Wen's assertions, analysts say the law provides a road map for Beijing to take the island by force if necessary. The legal language says China will attempt to reunite with Taiwan by peaceful means, but will resort to non-peaceful means once nonviolent methods are exhausted.

For decades, China's communist rulers have vowed to reunite Taiwan with the mainland. The island has been ruled separately from the mainland since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

Officials in Taipei Monday condemned the legislation and said the international community shares its opposition.

The United States - which has pledged to defend Taiwan from attack even though it supports a one China policy - has protested China's enactment of the law. The Bush administration has repeatedly warned both sides not to take any steps that would change the status quo and increase tensions in their relationship.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was asked Monday whether China believes itself to be ready to face up to U.S. military forces in the event of a war with Taiwan. Mr. Wen says China rejects foreign interference in its internal affairs. However, he says China is not afraid of foreign interference.

His answer drew applause from Chinese journalists employed by state media.

The anti-secession law topped the agenda at this year's 10-day N.P.C. legislative session.

Deputies of the largely figurehead lawmaking body this year also approved a 12 percent hike in military spending; accepted resignations of key officials such as the head of the state central military commission and the Hong Kong leader; and addressed issues including economic growth and rural poverty.

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