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China blunt on U.S.-Taiwan stance

By Willy Wo-Lap Lam, CNN Senior China Analyst

Qian warned Washington over not taking a clear-cut line on Taiwan independence.
Qian warned Washington over not taking a clear-cut line on Taiwan independence.

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Beijing (China)

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Beijing has criticized a senior U.S. official for indirectly aiding Taiwan independence in not taking a clear and firm stance against separatism.

In an unusually blunt message, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao blasted Therese Shaheen, Chairwoman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), for saying Washington had never said it "opposes Taiwan independence."

The AIT is a semi-official wing of the U.S. diplomatic service that handles U.S.-Taiwan relations given the lack of formal ties between the two.

Liu quoted Shaheen as insisting what Washington had said was only that it "does not support Taiwan independence" -- and that "not supporting Taiwan independence does not equate to opposing Taiwan independence."

The Chinese Foreign Ministry asserted that on numerous occasions, American leaders told Chinese officials Washington was "opposed to Taiwan independence."

"It is better for people like Shaheen to be well aware of the sensitiveness of the Taiwan issue and the danger of Taiwan separatists, and behave discreetly to avoid being completely ensnared by the Taiwan separatists," the official Chinese media on Monday quoted Liu as saying.

Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province and has threatened to use force if the self-governing island declares independence.

Diplomatic analysts in Beijing and Washington said while most U.S. politicians had used the formulation "the U.S. does not support independence," they had not made any protest when the official media in China translated their remarks by using the "opposed to independence" version.

The analysts said even more than semantics, Beijing was concerned about the apparently "pro-Taiwan" sentiments of Shaheen, the newly appointed AIT head.

In speeches made in Taiwan and the U.S., Shaheen had praised the Taiwan experience in democratization, adding that Taiwan need not fear the mainland because U.S. President George W. Bush was the "guardian angel" of Taiwan and its president, Chen Shui-bian.

Shaheen, believed to be close to the U.S. defense establishment, also reportedly urged Taiwan to buy more American weapons.

In the past fortnight, Beijing has applied more pressure on Washington to help rein in President Chen's "creeping independence."

While visiting Washington last week, former vice-premier Qian Qichen warned that Washington's failure to take a clear-cut line on Taiwan independence might jeopardize peace in the Taiwan Strait.

And a major purpose of Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to the U.S. early next month is to lobby the White House to cut down on its moral and defense support for the self-ruled island.

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