China is blasting Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's decision Monday to do away with the unification council, saying pro-independence moves will bring "disaster to the island."   

Chinese official newspapers on Tuesday condemned Taiwan's decision to get rid of the agency that was supposed to oversee eventual reunification between the democratically governed island and the communist mainland.

Beijing is interpreting the action as another step toward formal independence for the island, which Beijing considers a part of its territory.

A statement carried by the state news agency, Xinhua, on Tuesday said Chen Shui-bian's alleged moves toward independence will only bring disaster to Taiwan society.

Later in the day, the Chinese Foreign Ministry had strong words for Washington, which does not support Taiwan independence but has pledged to help Taiwan defend itself from an attack by the mainland.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said China would hold the U.S. to its commitments recognizing Beijing as the sole government of a unified China.

Liu says the United States should make substantial efforts to oppose Taiwan independence and not send any wrong signals to what he referred to as the Taiwan secessionists.

The U.S. State Department Monday appealed for calm on both sides and said Beijing and Taipei should resume long stalled talks. Washington repeated its position that Mr. Chen and China should not take any unilateral action that would change the status quo.

The island has been self-governed since 1949 when Chinese nationalists set up a separate government there following their defeat by the Communists.

Mr. Chen says his decision to stop funding the unification council does not change the current relationship between Taiwan and China.

The Taiwanese leader won reelection in 2004 on a pro-independence platform, riding on rising sentiments among many Taiwanese - especially younger generations - who feel less of a connection to mainland China than earlier generations did.

China one year ago enacted a law authorizing the use of force if Taiwan moves toward independence or is slow to pursue unification. 

Beijing says it remains committed to a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question, but continues to point hundreds of missiles at the island.