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Taiwan President's Comments Likely to Bring Criticism From China - 2002-08-03

Some mainland experts are alarmed by the Taiwanese president's statement that the island is a separate country. However, China's government has not officially responded to the comments by President Chen Shui-bian.

Professor Wu Nengyuan is a researcher at the Institute of Modern Taiwan Studies in China. He said the Taiwanese president's comments are likely to anger the Beijing government. Professor Wu said Chen Shui-bian's comments are, from the mainland's point of view, absolutely unacceptable and not to be allowed. He said that Mr. Chen has broken promises he made at his inauguration and taken a clear-cut position for Taiwanese independence.

Saturday, President Chen Shui-bian referred to Taiwan and China as two separate countries. Speaking at a videoconference, Mr. Chen also called for a referendum on Taiwan's future relationship with mainland China.

These are Mr. Chen's toughest remarks about Taiwan's relationship with China since being elected almost two years ago.

There has been no immediate comment from Beijing, which regards the island as part of its territory. China has threatened to attack Taiwan if it declares independence.

Professor Wu said Mr. Chen's remarks could have serious repercussions for the world. He said, "this is an extremely serious development that is like a challenge to a war, and if this trend cannot be controlled, a war is likely to become unavoidable." He hopes the whole world especially the United States will now go on high alert.

In recent speeches President Chen Shui-bian has warned China to cooperate on improving relations. If not, he said, the island might "walk down its own Taiwanese road."

Since their split at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, Taiwan and China have been diplomatic and military rivals, but their economies have become increasingly intertwined.

Although the Taiwanese president has not used the word independence, his recent statements could be interpreted as a threat to seek a permanent separation.

However, since his election, he also has pushed to strengthen business ties and cultural links with the mainland.