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China Rejects Calls for Peace Talks with Taiwan - 2004-10-13

China says the Taiwan president's offer for a peace dialogue is meaningless and that the island's leader is angling to declare independence.

Chinese officials have rejected an overture by Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, who recently called for peace talks with the mainland.

Beijing views the overture as a call for formal independence on the self-governed island, which China claims as part of its territory. The mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Zhang Mingqing on Wednesday rejected Mr. Chen's calls for cross-strait dialogue.

"In his speech, Chen Shui-bian preached that the Republic of China is Taiwan and Taiwan is the Republic of China, which was an open and audacious expression of Taiwan independence," the spokesman said.

The island has been self-ruled since 1949, when Nationalists fled there and established a separate government following the Communist takeover of the mainland. China's Communist leaders threaten to invade Taiwan if it moves toward formally declaring independence.

Tensions have risen as President Chen calls for a new Taiwan constitution - a move that Beijing interprets as a step toward independence.

President Chen says he is not steering the island toward a formal independence. In a speech on Sunday, Mr. Chen said his inability to communicate with the mainland had created what he referred to as a "misunderstanding."

Mainland spokesman Zhang Mingqing on Wednesday said Beijing distrusts the Taiwanese leader.

"Chen Shui-bian claims to want to ease tensions, but his remarks wantonly seek to create separate countries on each side of the Taiwan Strait," he said.

Mainland officials say no dialogue can take place unless Taiwan accepts the so-called "one-China principle," and acknowledges that Beijing is the only legitimate government of a united China.