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War of Words Escalating Between China, Taiwan - 2003-12-16

China is calling remarks by Taiwan's vice president unreasonable after the Taiwanese official said the mainland is resorting to terrorist tactics by keeping hundreds of missiles pointed at the island. The exchange is the latest in an escalating war of words over the future of Taiwan.

Taiwanese Vice President Annette Lu told the Reuters news agency Tuesday that China's pointing of hundreds of missiles at Taiwan amounts to state terrorism.

China considers Taiwan part of its territory and has vowed to use force if the island moves toward formal independence.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao responded to the Taiwanese official's remarks. Mr. Liu says no country would call actions to protect its national integrity terrorism. Therefore, he says, the comments made by the Taiwanese official are unreasonable.

The exchange came as political opponents of Taiwanese pro-independence President Chen Shui-bian passed a resolution in the parliament calling on China to remove the missiles.

The resolution was meant to undercut plans by President Chen, who has scheduled a referendum in March on whether to demand that China stop pointing missiles at the island.

Mr. Chen has angered Beijing by using a new referendum law to call for the plebiscite, which Beijing interprets as a move toward independence. Taiwan has been governed separately since 1949, when Chinese nationalists fled there following their defeat in a civil war that ended with Communist control of the mainland.

Some on the island, including members of President Chen's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, would like to declare it a sovereign state. China wants eventual unification. The issue of sovereignty has become a central theme leading up to national elections in March, in which Mr. Chen will seek another term.

On Tuesday, meanwhile, leading opposition candidate Lien Chan of Taiwan's Kuomintang party broke with his party's longtime stance on unification.

The Kuomintang has said it favors joining with the mainland at some point in the future.

In his remarks Tuesday, however, Mr. Chan said he does not embrace the policy and instead came out in favor of the status quo. He said the question of whether Taiwan should be independent or a part of China should be decided by "future generations."