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Taipei told to stop playing with fire
( 2004-01-07 23:54) (China Daily by Xing Zhigang)

Taiwan authorities should "stop playing with fire," a senior official said Wednesday.

Taipei's radical push towards independence has put cross-Straits relations in the crucible. Peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits will be determined by what happens in the next three months, said Wang Zaixi, vice-minister of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.

Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian's stepped-up efforts towards independence pose a great threat, he said.

"Developments on the island ahead of the March election will have significant impact on the situation and future cross-Straits ties," Wang said in an exclusive interview with China Daily.

"They should be closely watched. If Chen will recklessly take more risky pro-independence moves... it will trigger tension and even a clash in bilateral ties."

The official stopped short of threatening the use of force.

Instead, he reiterated Beijing's long-standing policy that the mainland will make unremitting efforts to peacefully settle the Taiwan question but "will never allow anybody to split Taiwan from China in any way.''

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has said Beijing will pay any price to safeguard the unity of the motherland.

While promoting the peaceful reunification of Taiwan and the mainland, Beijing has not renounced the use of force should Taiwan declare independence.

Wang's new comments highlighted the growing uncertainty clouding the Taiwan Straits and the Asia-Pacific region as Chen takes separatist steps to woo votes in the "presidential" elections on March 20.

The mood has been simmering since Taiwan passed a controversial law in November allowing referendums. The move was widely seen as a scheme to move the island closer to formal independence.

Chen has insisted on holding a so-called "defensive referendum" on election day despite a blunt warning from US President George W. Bush against his unilateral move to change the status quo.

Wang called on people on both sides of the Straits and the international community to see through Chen's two-handed strategy to push ahead with his splittist attempt.

On the one hand, Chen recently repeated a pledge not to promote any referendum on changing the status quo in regard to independence to ease misgivings and pressure from the world community.

Taiwan people march to protest against Chen Shui-bian's splittist agenda last year in Taipei. [newsphoto.com.cn/file]

At the same time, Taipei plans to send delegations to the United States, Japan and Europe to assure them the proposed "defensive referendum" will not change the island's status quo with the mainland.

The Taiwan leader, on the other hand, has showed no signs of backing down from his referendum plan and has gone as far as to call a "holy war" against the mainland.

Wang said Chen's two-faced tactics have exposed his true strategy to win an election by fanning populist winds and jeopardizing cross-Straits ties.

Chen's explanation have failed to dispel deep worries from the public and the international community, Wang said.

He said word games cannot cover up Chen's pro-independence conspiracy although he has tried to describe the "defensive referendum" as "peace referendum".

Under the guise of promoting democracy, the referendum plan is actually Chen's way of provoking the mainland and creating tensions in cross-Straits relations, he stressed.

The leader apparently aims to upset the cross-Straits status quo that both Taiwan and the mainland are one China by splitting the island from the Chinese territory in piecemeal fashion, said Wang.

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