China has lashed out at Taiwan's independence-leaning President Chen Shui-bian for supporting a referendum on whether the island should seek membership in the United Nations. From Beijing, Daniel Schearf reports China's Taiwan Affairs Office says any such move would not only harm China-Taiwan relations, but also jeopardize peace and stability in the region.

The spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, Yang Yi, told reporters Taiwan's president is using the referendum for political gain and to move Taiwan towards what he called independence from China. He says the proposed referendum will create tensions between the two sides.

"The purpose of the move is to incite conflict between the two sides and cheat Taiwan people ... so Chen Shui-bian can trick votes from Taiwan people and reach de jure independence," Yang said.

Yang says supporters of independence have already made the situation in the Taiwan Strait dangerous, but, he says, if Taiwan applies for recognition at the U.N. as a country, things will get worse.

"If the situation continues, it will severely impact cross-Strait relations, harm compatriots on both sides, and seriously put in danger peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and Asia-Pacific region," Yang said.

China and Taiwan split in 1949 at the end of a civil war, but Beijing still claims the island as part of its territory. It has threatened to take Taiwan by force if the island declares formal independence.

Yang says China has made preparations to deter what he called any "separatist" activity, but he did not elaborate on what kind of preparations Beijing has made.

China has been adding missiles to its arsenal of several hundred aimed at Taiwan. In March, Beijing announced a 17.8 percent boost in military spending, the highest increase in more than a decade.

Chinese officials maintain the boost is to increase salaries for underpaid soldiers and upgrade equipment.

But the United States and other countries are suspicious of China's reasons for the military build-up. The United States also says China's real military spending may be three times higher than reported.

The United States has vowed to defend Taiwan if China attacks the island, and is therefore concerned about moves on either side of the strait that would upset peace in the region.

Taiwan has applied numerous times for U.N. recognition since it lost its seat to Beijing in 1971, but China's influence in the organization has prevented Taiwan from succeeding.