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China Threatens to Attack if Taiwan Declares Independence - 2003-12-21

China has reiterated to the United States that it will never accept Taiwan independence, and has pledged to work for a peaceful reunification with the island.

Chinese President Hu Jintao re-emphasized his government's position on Taiwan in a telephone call to U.S. President George Bush Saturday.

The Chinese state-run news agency, Xinhua, said Mr. Hu told the U.S. president that China appreciates his recent reaffirmation of the so-called One-China policy first enunciated by President Nixon in 1972. That policy says there is one China, and Taiwan is part of it.

Taiwan has been self-governed since 1949, when Chinese Nationalists fled to the island following their defeat by the Communists in a civil war. China considers Taiwan a renegade province, and has vowed to take it by force if it declares independence or does not move quickly enough toward unification.

Some people on the island want a formal declaration of independence, a prospect that has caused anger and anxiety among the leadership in Beijing recently.

The independence issue has taken center stage in Taiwan ahead of the island's presidential elections in March. Taiwan's pro-independence president, Chen Shui-bian, who is seeking re-election, has further angered Beijing by using a new law to schedule a referendum on election day. The referendum will be on whether to demand that China stop pointing hundreds of missiles at the island.

Although the U.S. government does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state, it has remained its biggest weapons supplier and has pledged to defend the island, if China attacks.

During a visit earlier this month by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to Washington, President Bush calmed Chinese anxieties by saying the United States opposes any unilateral decision by either China or Taiwan to change the status quo.