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Week of August 9, 2002

Week of August 9, 2002

The U.S. and China This Week

CROSS-STRAIT RELATIONS: A Distracted China Issues Warning to Taiwan

China issued a warning to Taiwan on Wednesday, threatening the island with military action. The China Daily quoted a high level military official who said that China might attack if Taiwan were to hold a referendum on independence. The warning comes as a response to Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's statement that holding a referendum on Taiwan's independence was a "basic human right" and that there was "one country on each side" of the Taiwan Strait. The warning was carried only in China's English language new media, suggesting Beijing does not yet believe the current dispute is serious enough to raise the military alarm domestically.

This warning is China's strongest censure on Taiwan since Chen's remarks last Saturday. Distracted by succession maneuvers ahead of this autumn's Communist Party congress Beijing originally offered little more than a boilerplate response. On Monday, Li Wei-yi, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of China's State Council, offered a statement saying that Chen's comments would have ramifications for Taiwan's economy and that they would probably have ramifications for the personal interests of Taiwanese residents as well.

Beijing's newest warning comes on the heels of President Chen Shui-bian's statement put forward on Tuesday, insisting that he had only meant to put forward a doctrine of equal or parallel sovereignty. His earlier remarks, he said, had been "oversimplified". A DPP party official also said that there are no immediate plans to pursue legislation on a referendum.

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CROSS-STRAIT RELATIONS: Taiwan Cancels War Games and meet with U.S Officials 

Taiwan called off its planned August 15 naval exercises "to avoid speculation and misunderstanding" after President Chen Shuibian spoke about Taiwan's right to hold a referendum on the island's right to declare independence. With tension rising in the Taiwan Strait, the cancellation of the annual exercises was declared in order to help diffuse the situation. Taipei's China Times newspaper reported that Chen ordered the defense ministry to cancel the drills to "express goodwill to the other side." However, simultaneously, China's state-run official media reported renewed threats to invade Taiwan, and an unidentified senior military officer is quoted as saying Chen might risk attack if he continued with a vote on independence.

Taiwan's top policymaker, Tsai Ing-wen, traveled to the United States to hold secret talks with U.S. officials about Chen's apparent policy changes. Sensitive to Beijing's fierce protests against Taipei-Washington high level contacts, the State Department has refused to confirm or deny whether any of its officials had met with Tsai or had plans to do so. Taiwanese officials did say that Tsai held closed-door meetings with academics from think tanks the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute.

The Taiwan issue is sure to be on the agenda when President Bush hosts President Jiang Zemin for a summit at his Texas ranch in October.

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The U.S. and China This Week
The U.S. and China This Week

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