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Taiwan Abolishes Reunification Council


Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian says he is dissolving the part of his government responsible for eventual reunification with mainland China. In Beijing, the Communist leadership has been warning against such a move.

For days, Chinese authorities have been warning Chen Shui-bian against getting rid of the long defunct National Unification Council - which to Beijing had symbolized a hope that the mainland and Taiwan would reunite.

Last week, Li Weiyi, spokesman for the mainland's Taiwan Affairs office, warned that getting rid of the council would spark a serious crisis in the Taiwan Strait.

He says Beijing will do its best to maintain peace and stability in the region, but at the same time firmly opposes any Taiwan independence activity.

China has hundreds of missiles pointed at Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of its territory.

But despite the warnings, on Monday Mr. Chen announced his decision to scrap the advisory body after a meeting with his national security team. The Taiwan leader told reporters however the move is not intended to change the status quo in relations with Beijing.

The democratically ruled island has been self-governed since 1949, when Chinese nationalists fled there after their defeat by the Communists in the Chinese civil war.

Mr. Chen's decision to abolish the unification council comes one year after Beijing passed an anti-secession law authorizing the use of force against Taiwan if the island's government moves toward independence.

President Chen, who was reelected in 2004 on a pro-independence platform, has angered Beijing by calling for a new constitution - something the Chinese Communist leadership views as a further push toward independence.

The United States has pledged to help Taiwan defend itself against an attack, but does not want to be drawn into a conflict with China. Washington says it does not support Taiwan independence.

The Bush administration has repeatedly called on both sides to avoid taking any steps to change the status quo.