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Taiwan Cabinet Pushes UN Membership Referendum Forward

Taiwan's Cabinet has moved the island one step closer towards holding a referendum on joining the United Nations under the name "Taiwan," despite objections from the United States and China.

An initial proposal was approved Thursday. To complete the process, supporters now need to gather more than 800,000 signatures.

Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party hopes to hold the vote together with presidential elections next March.

The United States has warned that such a move could raise tensions with China. Beijing also has voiced its opposition, saying the public ballot is just a way of Taiwan seeking formal independence.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war, and Beijing regards the self-ruled island as part of its own territory.

Taiwan, whose official name is the Republic of China, lost its seat in the United Nations to China in 1971. The island's efforts to rejoin the world body have been repeatedly blocked by Beijing.

The decision to go ahead with the U.N. referendum vote overruled a previous conclusion by a government referendum review panel last month.

During that meeting, more than half of the panel's 20 members voiced their opposition, with one panel leader calling the proposal unnecessary. He said there is no need to hold the vote because most people in Taiwan already support the island's bid to join the United Nations.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.