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China Says Taiwanese President Damaging Unification Hopes

China accuses Taiwan's president of risking war by threatening to seek independence. This comes after the Taiwanese leader said the island might soon walk down its own road.

The state-run China Daily newspaper quotes officials Tuesday as saying that Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has damaged hopes for peace between China and Taiwan. Mr. Chen made a televised speech on Sunday that many perceive as a veiled threat to move the island toward independence.

Liu Guoshen is head of the Taiwan Research Institute of Xiamen University, in China's southern province, Fujian.

Mr. Liu said Mr. Chen's remarks Sunday were the most irresponsible he has made since assuming power more than two years ago.

The China Daily Tuesday quotes unnamed officials from the Taiwan Affairs Office as saying that Mr. Chen's remarks risked war with the mainland.

In his speech Sunday, Mr. Chen said Taiwan hoped for better ties with Beijing. But he warned that if the island's goodwill was not reciprocated, the Taiwanese might walk down their own road.

Mr. Chen's Democratic Progressive Party advocates independence from the mainland. But since he became president in May 2000, Mr. Chen has distanced himself from the party's pro-independence platform.

Mr. Liu said Taiwan alone cannot decide the future of relations with China. Rather, he said both sides need to engage in a dialogue. Mr. Liu said if Taiwan moves toward independence from the mainland, it would threaten ties across the Taiwan Strait, and harm the stability of the Asia-Pacific region.

Mr. Liu adds that Mr. Chen might have made his comments out of frustration with China, for winning diplomatic recognition Sunday from one of Taiwan's few allies: the Pacific island of Nauru.

Taiwan has severed diplomatic ties with Nauru in response. Now, only 27 countries recognize Taipei, most of them small, developing nations.

China considers Taiwan its territory and reserves what it said is its right to attack the island if it declares independence or resists unification with the mainland. Taiwan has been governed separately since Nationalists fled China at the end of the country's civil war in 1949.