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China Calls on US to Help Ensure Peace in Taiwan Strait - 2004-03-23

China is calling on the United States to do more to ensure peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. The call follows Saturday's turbulent national elections on Taiwan. China considers Taiwan part of its territory.

For the past few days, Chinese officials have watched a presidential assassination attempt, highly contested national elections, and post-election demonstrations in Taiwan without making any direct comment.

On Tuesday, that silence was broken to a degree when Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said China had asked the United States to take a more active role in preserving peace in the Taiwan Strait. He said Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing had a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday.

Mr. Kong said that Minister Li asked the United States to adhere to the one China policy and to do more things conducive to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the development of cross-Strait relations.

Taiwan has been self-governed since Nationalists fled there in 1949 following the Communist takeover of the mainland. China regards Taiwan a renegade province and says it will not waver on its goal of gaining eventual unification, even if it means using force.

Tensions rose between the mainland's Communist authorities and the island's democratic government in the run-up to last Saturday's elections, when incumbent President Chen Shui-bian - backed by pro-independence forces - won a narrow victory.

Analysts say Mr. Chen's re-election was not good news for Beijing, which fears the Taiwanese leader may want to declare independence in the not-too-distant future.

The United States recognizes Beijing as the only legitimate government of China, but has maintained strong economic relations with Taiwan. Washington is Taiwan's chief supplier of weapons, and it has an agreement to defend the island from a possible Chinese invasion.

China has often accused the United States of meddling in its internal affairs by selling weapons to Taiwan and maintaining strong relations with the island.

However, Chinese officials welcomed a warning last year from President Bush, who called on both Taiwan and China to avoid taking any unilateral steps to change the island's status quo.

China's state media and government spokesmen until Tuesday have said little about the Taiwan election. Mr. Chen won a day after being slightly wounded in an apparent assassination attempt. However, opposition supporters are alleging there was election fraud, and are demanding a recount. Demonstrators have crowded streets around the presidential offices in Taipei since Saturday night.