10/13/2004, 00.00
china - taiwan
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China rejects Taiwan's peace overture

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - China on Wednesday rejected Taiwan President Chen Shuibian's overture for peace talks, saying Beijing's stance was unchanged and warning that Mr Chen risked "great catastrophe" by pushing for independence.

"Chen Shuibian claimed that he intends to ease tensions and confrontation across the Taiwan Strait, he has obstinately stuck to his separatist stand of 'one country on each side' of the Strait," said Zhang Mingqing, spokesman for the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office.

Mr Zhang said if Mr Chen continued pushing for Taiwan independence, "it will only bring great catastrophe."

Mr Chen has "continued to deny the fact that Taiwan is a part of China and has wantonly stigmatised and viciously attacked the motherland to fuel the tension across the Strait," he said.

Mr Zhang's tirade was directed at a speech given by Mr Chen on October 10, in which the Taiwan president called on China to enter dialogue with Taiwan on reducing tension and defusing a military build up between the two sides.

In an address marking the Double Tenth national day celebration last Sunday, President Chen Shuibian called for an end to decades of hostility with the mainland by holding peace talks on the basis of a landmark meeting in Hong Kong.  The 1992 Hong Kong meeting laid the groundwork for cross-strait talks under the "one China" principle.

Mr Chen said: "I would like to take the initiative to propose that both sides use the basis of the 1992 meeting in Hong Kong, to seek possible schemes that are 'not necessarily perfect but acceptable' as preparation for a step forward in the resumption of dialogue and consultation."

Mr Chen said a resumption of talks was necessary to prevent any conflict erupting across the Taiwan Strait due to misunderstanding.  He said he hoped to set up "confidence-building measures through consultation" as well as a "code of conduct" to guarantee permanent cross-strait peace.

Mr. Chen's announcement was welcomed by the United States, which has repeatedly asked Taiwan to refrain from provoking the mainland and to resume dialogue to ease escalating cross-strait tension, which has become a potential threat to regional stability.

Some mainland academics dismissed Mr Chen's olive branch as an attempt to drum up support for his Democratic Progressive Party in the coming election for the Legislative Yuan at the end of the year.

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