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Beijing, Taipei Bridle at Powell Remarks


U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell upset leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait this week with comments he made about Taiwan. China's leaders are rejecting his call for a dialogue with Taiwan, and Taiwan's president has angrily reaffirmed his view that the island is an independent country.

Both China and Taiwan appeared to dash any hope that a cross-strait dialogue, suspended since 1999, would resume anytime soon.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, in meetings with Chinese officials in Beijing this week, urged them to restart talks with Taipei. He also said flatly that Taiwan was not an independent country.

Zhang Mingqing, a spokesman for the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office, told reporters on Wednesday that Beijing sees no basis for dialogue with Taipei.

Mr. Zhang says it does not matter who calls for the resumption of talks. He says the problem is not with the mainland authorities, but with the Taiwanese leadership.

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian meanwhile told visiting former South Korean President Kim Young-sam on Tuesday that Taiwan is a "sovereign, independent country."

China regards democratic, self-ruled Taiwan as a part of its territory, and says it will resume talks only if Taiwanese leaders agree to accept the Communist government as the ruler of a united China.

Taiwan has been self-governed since 1949 when Nationalists fled there following their defeat to Communist forces on the mainland.

Talks between the two sides were suspended five years ago when Taiwan's leaders said they wanted to deal with the mainland on a state-to-state basis.

Tensions have been rising as China worries that Taiwanese President Chen, reelected in March, may formally declare independence before the end of his second term.

China has said it will attack the island if it moves toward formal independence, or is slow to work toward unification with the mainland.

The United States is bound by an agreement to help defend Taiwan and regularly sells weapons to the island - a practice that angers China. Chinese leaders repeated their concerns this week to Secretary Powell, who then reaffirmed that Washington does not support Taiwan's independence.

The Taiwanese president did not mention Mr. Powell or the United States by name, but in apparent response to Mr. Powell's remarks, Mr. Chen said other nations cannot change what he called the facts: that Taiwan is an independent and sovereign country.