Wed, 09 Mar 2005

From: AFP

China lifts veil on law that could unleash military might on Taiwan

Peter Harmsen, Agence France-Presse/Beijing

China on Tuesday lifted the veil on a much-anticipated anti- secession law which will give its military the legal basis for attacking Taiwan, prompting Taipei to warn that peace in the region was under threat.

War might be the only option left for China's decision makers if all other avenues to reunify Taiwan are exhausted, according to Wang Zhaoguo, vice chairman of the National People's Congress, or parliament.

"Using non-peaceful means to stop secession in defense of our sovereignty and territorial integrity would be our last resort when all our efforts for a peaceful reunification prove futile," he told lawmakers in Beijing.

He said the bill, which is expected to be passed on Monday, provides for the use of force "in the event that the Taiwan independence forces should act under any name or by any means to cause the fact of Taiwan's secession from China".

China's military might could also come into play if "major incidents entailing Taiwan's secession from China should occur or (if) peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted."

Details of the law were not announced, but China made clear it had not yielded an inch from its insistence to retake Taiwan, which has been governed separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.

"Reunifying Taiwan is the wish of all the Chinese people and is a task handed down through tens of thousands of generations," Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told reporters.

Wang argued that China's basic policy remains "peaceful reunification and one country, two systems," referring to the formula under which Hong Kong has been governed since its return from British rule in 1997.

"The one country, two systems formula not only embodies the principled position of achieving national reunification and safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.

"It also allows a high degree of flexibility by taking into account Taiwan's past and present circumstances."

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has stated he does not consider the "one-country, two-systems" solution appropriate for the island.

The formula allows Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy, but critics have said it gives Beijing undue influence in the city. Ironically, it was originally coined with Taiwan in mind.

Taiwan responded by lodging the "strongest protest" against China's "malicious threats."

"The law exposes China's attempts to annex Taiwan by the use of force and to dominate the region. It's like issuing a blank check to its military," said Chiu Tai-san, vice chairman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council.

"Our government lodges the strongest protest against (China's) malicious attempts and threats resorting to violent means which will jeopardize peace in the region and cross-strait stability," Chiu told reporters.

The anti-secession legislation has sparked concern that it could end the "strategic ambiguity" over Taiwan's status that has ensured decades of peace in the Taiwan Strait.

Last month, the United States and Japan jointly issued a statement which described Taiwan as a common security issue amid China's military build-up.

China Tuesday took a swipe at "outside forces" interfering in its internal affairs.

"Solving the Taiwan question and achieving China's complete reunification is China's internal affair," said Wang. "On this question we will not submit to any interference by outside forces."

Foreign Minister Li struck a similar note, saying "the foreign forces have no right to intervene."

"We Chinese people have the determination, the capability and confidence to safeguard our country's sovereignty," he said.