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China Warns Taiwan President Against New Constitution Plans - 2004-04-14

China is lashing out at Taiwan's president for advocating a new constitution for the island, which Beijing claims is a veiled timetable for independence.

China calls Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's plan to enact a new constitution by 2008 a "naked timetable" for the island's independence.

Li Weiyi, spokesman for the China's Taiwan Affairs Office, warned Wednesday that the president's plan will result in "tensions and danger" in the Taiwan Strait.

Mr. Li added that if Taiwan attempts to take advantage of China's hosting of the 2008 Olympics to declare independence, it would be "tantamount to smashing one's own foot with a rock."

China is reacting to President Chen's recent remarks to a U.S. newspaper, The Washington Post, that he will start the constitutional process within two years. He denied it is a step toward outright independence.

But Mr. Chen and his Democratic Progressive Party are also publicly asserting that there is consensus among the island's people that Taiwan is an "independent, sovereign country."

President Chen narrowly won re-election last month against the Nationalist party, which toes a more conciliatory line with China. That election is in dispute and a recount is expected next month.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province that must eventually re-unify with the mainland. Beijing has threatened to use force to achieve that goal, if necessary.

Relations between China and Taiwan are high on the agenda for Chinese officials meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney.

China is asking the United States to stop weapons sales to Taiwan. The United States is bound by its internal laws to defend Taiwan if it is attacked, but Washington recognizes only one China. China says Washington's stance and its arms sales encourage pro-independence groups.

The head of China's military commission and former president Jiang Zemin told Mr. Cheney that Sino-U.S. ties would improve if the Taiwan issue is well-handled.