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Beijing hopes for peace soon

Uighur men in China's western province of Xinjiang
The aftermath of terror attacks in the U.S. threaten to be destabilizing in China's restive western regions, where Chinese communism meets Muslim tradition with sometimes violent consequences  

By Willy Wo-Lap Lam
Senior China Analyst

(CNN) -- Beijing hopes peace can be resumed "as soon as possible" and that US military strikes against Afghanistan should avoid hitting civilians.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman gave his government's response just a few hours after the U.S. and its allies started launching missile and other strikes at Kabul and other Afghan cities.

The spokesman said the Chinese government "opposes terrorism of any form and supports actions to combat terrorism."

However, he said while Beijing encouraged efforts to combat terrorism, they should be undertaken according to "relevant resolutions passed by the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council."

"Relevant military strikes on terrorism should be targeted at specific objectives, so as to avoid hurting innocent civilians," the spokesman said. "China hopes peace can be resumed as soon as possible."

U.S. presence

Diplomatic sources in the Chinese capital said Beijing was also anxious that the forces of the U.S. and its allies leave the area as soon as the terrorist cells had been damaged and rooted out.

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They said Beijing was worried that the U.S. might maintain a presence in Afghanistan and neighboring countries such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for long periods of time.

Meanwhile, the Chinese civilian and military leadership had last week been anticipating the imminent start of military action by Washington and its allies.

A team of senior military officers led by Vice Chief of General Staff General Xiong Kuangkai late last week made an inspection tour of the short China-Afghan border in western Xinjiang autonomous region.

The goal was to ensure that the Chinese army posted there would be able to maintain stability should war start.

Beijing also wants to prevent Afghan refugees from spilling over into Xinjiang, which is home to more than 7 million Muslim Uighur miniorities.

Since September 11, Beijing has moved more troops and paramilitary police to Xinjiang to put further pressure on anti-Beijing Uighur separatists.

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