Taiwan is again attempting to regain admission to the United Nations, and China, as usual, has quickly and loudly objected. Mainland officials on Wednesday had harsh words for the island's leaders, saying Taiwan is unfit to be a member of the world body.

For the past 12 years, Taiwan has sought to be readmitted to the United Nations, from which it was expelled in 1971 when most nations agreed to recognize Beijing as the sole legitimate representative of the whole of China.

Taiwan has been ruled separately under the official name of "Republic of China" since 1949. That was the year the Nationalist Party, defeated in civil war by the Communist Party, fled to the island and established a government-in-exile.

The issue of Taiwan's bid for readmission to the world body has taken on new life this year. Legislative elections are due to be held next month, and President Chen Shui-bian and his pro-independence party have pledged to approach the United Nations again to seek admission, under the name of "Taiwan."

In a campaign rally on Sunday, Mr. Chen said the island's government had made a mistake by originally trying to apply under the name "Republic of China."

His comments angered Beijing officials, who have threatened to attack the island if it moves toward formal independence, and who pass up no opportunity to keep the island diplomatically isolated.

At a briefing in the Chinese capital Wednesday, the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman, Li Weiyi, said the island is unfit to join the United Nations.

Mr. Li says that as a part of China, Taiwan does not have the status to join the United Nations. He says Beijing has a right to represent the whole of China, which - he says - includes Taiwan.

Ever since it gained recognition by the United Nations, Beijing has sought to isolate Taiwan. A condition for establishing ties with Beijing is that foreign governments first sever any existing diplomatic relations with the Taipei government.

China has also blocked Taiwan's participation in many world bodies and events, including the United Nations' World Health Organization. Beijing's actions prompted world criticism last year when Taiwan - along with much of the rest of Asia - was hit by the outbreak of SARS, and the WHO was unable to offer assistance.

While the United States and most developed nations maintain wide economic ties with Taiwan, only a few countries - mostly developing nations of Latin America, Africa and the Pacific - still have formal diplomatic relations with the island.