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China Calls Taiwan President a Troublemaker


China has blasted Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian, calling him a troublemaker for suggesting the island should start forgetting about reunification with the mainland.

Chinese Communist officials waited more than a week to respond to a speech by Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, in which he said the island should start thinking about getting rid of its National Unification Council.

The council was set up 15 years ago to govern issues relating to Taiwan's eventual reunification with the mainland, but it has been dormant for several years.

Li Weiyi, a spokesman for the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office, blasted Chen Shui-bian for provoking conflict. "This demonstrates once again that he is a troublemaker and saboteur of cross-strait relations and peace and stability in Asia," said Li.

Taiwan has been governed separately since 1949 when Chinese Nationalists retreated there following their defeat by the Communists under Mao Zedong. The Communist government of Beijing has vowed to retake control of the democratic island, by force if necessary.

Taiwan's leadership used to consider itself the government in exile of all of China, but virtually abandoned that stance years ago as more Taiwan residents began to call for formal independence. Chen Shui-bian has taken those calls a step further by pushing for a new constitution - something China would see as an all-out move toward independence.

The growing pro-independence sentiment on Taiwan has made Beijing nervous, prompting it to undertake a massive military buildup and enact an anti-secession law last year. The law allows the use of force against Taiwan if the island takes steps toward independence or is slow to reunite with the mainland.

China has been on a campaign to show it wants peaceful reunification by encouraging trade deals, offering pandas to Taiwan, and welcoming visits by Taiwanese opposition leaders.

The United States, which has pledged to help Taiwan defend itself from unprovoked attack, has urged both sides to avoid doing anything to change the status quo. U.S. officials last week criticized Mr. Chen's remarks, saying the United States does not support Taiwan independence.

U.S. officials have praised China's interaction with the Taiwanese opposition, but have called on Beijing to also seek dialogue with the island's elected leaders.