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Taiwan to Hold 2 Referendums on UN Membership During March Presidential Election

Taiwan says it will hold two separate referendum votes on the island's controversial bid for membership in the United Nations during its presidential elections in March.

In a statement issued Friday, the island's Central Election Commission says the two opinion ballots, proposed by the island's ruling Democratic Progressive Party and opposition Nationalist Party, will both focus on U.N. membership.

Taiwan was expelled from the U.N. in 1971 when the seat it held under the name of "Republic of China" was transferred to the Beijing-based government of the People's Republic of China.

Both the United States and China have voiced opposition to the referendum plans.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the move would be provocative and unnecessarily raise tensions across the Taiwan Strait between China and Taiwan. China says the vote is a step toward formal independence.

Taiwan and China split during a civil war in 1949. Beijing claims the self-ruled island is part of its own territory and has threatened to use force against Taipei if it seeks formal independence.

The two referendums both focus on Taiwan's bid for U.N. membership, but the DPP proposal asks voters whether the island should try to regain membership using the name of "Taiwan."

The opposition's proposal asks voters whether the island should use the "Republic of China," "Taiwan" or any other name to join the U.N. or other international organizations.

Even if the votes are passed, they are unlikely to change Taiwan's status. Taiwan has made numerous attempts to rejoin the U.N. since the early 1990s, but has been repeatedly blocked by Beijing, which is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.