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China presses U.S. over Taiwan 'republic' comments

CNN Staff

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- China has asked the White House to explain comments from U.S. President George W. Bush that referred to Taiwan as the "Republic of Taiwan."

Bush used the term Thursday to an audience at the State Department while pointing out how China and Taiwan's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) late last year represented a positive development for the United States.

"It's important to recognize and to welcome both countries, both the republic of Taiwan, and of course China, into the World Trade Organization," Bush said.

The comments were picked up in a Voice of America report by Chinese media, prompting the 'please explain' call from Beijing, a statement issued by China's foreign ministry said.

Beijing, which considers Taiwan a renegade province and part of China, has consistently criticized Taiwan supporters for describing the island as either "Republic of China" or "Republic of Taiwan."

The pro-independence movement in Taiwan has made it clear that it is their eventual goal to establish a Republic of Taiwan.

China says it opposes any move by Taiwan towards declaring independence, while the U.S. says that it will defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese military invasion.

Bush's comments further rile China because they refer to Taiwan and China as two countries.

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In other developments, more hiccups are expected in relations between China and the U.S. following Bush's indication of his support for Taiwan gaining observer status at the World Health Assembly.

On Thursday, Bush signed a bill that authorized the U.S. State Department to take action in support of Taiwan's participation in the WHA.

The bill stated that the Secretary of State was required to submit to Congress within two weeks a plan for helping Taipei gain observer status in the Assembly.

The WHA is due to meet in Geneva next month, when the U.S. delegation is expected to back a motion granting Taiwan observer status.

Taiwan's Central News Agency reported on Friday that Taiwan's Presidential Office had expressed "welcome and thanks" to the move.

The office said the support that the White House and Congress had given to Taiwan tallied with the Taiwan people's aspirations for participation in international bodies.

Beijing has reiterated that support for Taiwan's observer status at the WHA would be tantamount to a plot to "fabricate 'two Chinas,' or 'one China, one Taiwan'."

While the Chinese government has yet to formally react to Bush's support for Taiwan's WHA participation, this latest development was widely reported by official Chinese news agencies.




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