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Taiwan: War bill a big provocation

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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Taiwan's government has warned that China's new anti-secession law is a "war bill" that will have a "serious impact" on security in the region.

Calling the measure a "serious provocation," Joseph Wu, chairman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council told The Associated Press it "restricts Taiwan's freedom and democracy, and has a serious impact on security in the East-Asia region."

On Monday, China's National People's Congress authorized the use of military force to stop any independence move by the island.

The measure "represents the common will and strong determination of the Chinese people to safeguard the territorial integrity" of China, NPC chairman Wu Bangguo said.

But Wu added the measure would only be used if Taiwan declared independence or if negotiations for peaceful reunification are exhausted.

Leaders in Beijing consider Taiwan a renegade province after Nationalist troops lost the civil war on the mainland and fled to the island in 1949.

China has long threatened to take military action to prevent Taiwan from declaring formal independence, but Monday's move lays a legal framework behind those threats.

Taiwan officials were quick to call the measure a "war bill," coming as China boosts its military spending by 13 percent to $30 billion.

"The anti-secession law is a law that authorizes war," Taiwan cabinet spokesman Cho Jung-tai told reporters.

"It has caused resentment in Taiwan and opposition in the international community. China has to bear the responsibility and pay a price for this law."

But Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the new legislation was not a "war bill" and warned outsiders not to get involved.

"This is a law advancing peaceful unification between the sides. It is not targeted at the people of Taiwan, nor is it a war bill," Wen said at a news conference, shortly after the law was passed.

The law also declares that the status of Taiwan "is China's internal affair, which subjects to no interference by any outside forces."

In Washington, the Bush administration last week called it "unhelpful" and urged Beijing to reconsider the bill.

China hopes the law will deter Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian from pushing for the island's independence before the end of his second and last term in 2008, analysts told Reuters news agency.

Despite the legislation, analysts say the People's Liberation Army has no immediate plans to attack Taiwan and the "non-peaceful" means is not specifically a reference to war. It could, for example, be economic sanctions or blockades.

Reuters reports the new law will feature in talks between U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing in Beijing on March 20-21.

Washington recognizes China but is Taiwan's main supporter and arms supplier.

U.S. President George W. Bush has pledged to help Taiwan defend itself against any Chinese attack.

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