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China ignores Taiwan's DMZ offer

By Willy Wo-Lap Lam, CNN Senior China Analyst

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian is accused of proposing a DMZ with China as an election gimmick.
Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian is accused of proposing a DMZ with China as an election gimmick.

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HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Chinese authorities have ignored the apparent olive branch from Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian, who proposed Tuesday setting up a "peace and stability framework" to defuse tension with the mainland.

Government departments and state media have made no formal comment on the Chen initiative, which would include the establishment of a demilitarized zone and liaison offices between Taipei and Beijing.

But Chinese academics close to the Communist Party and government criticize Chen for posturing with the aim of winning a tough re-election campaign.

Beijing-based Taiwan expert Zhu Xianlong said Chen's peace offensive was a gimmick "aimed at cheating Taiwan voters".

Professor Zhu said the embattled Taiwan president had in recent days tried to woo businesspeople and other Taiwan residents who wanted closer ties with the mainland, but he doubted whether the island's voters would be misled.

Xu Bodong, another Taiwan specialist in Beijing, said Chen's goal was "to achieve (Taiwan) independence in a peaceful way so that there will be one (separate) country on either side of the Taiwan Strait."

Professor Xu said Chen's game plan would not work because he did not recognize the "one China" principle.

Meanwhile, Beijing is set to send more high-level envoys to the U.S. in the run-up to the March 20 Taiwan presidential elections.

These Chinese cadres will ask Washington to stop Chen holding a referendum on election day that is seen by Beijing as a major step towards Taiwan independence.

Diplomatic sources in Beijing said the leadership under President Hu Jintao also wanted the White House to give subtle but clear-cut indications the U.S. did not favor Chen's re-election.

Chen Yunlin, the director of the cabinet-level Taiwan Affairs Office, is due to begin talks with senior State Department officials Wednesday.

Beijing's line is that Sino-U.S. cooperation on trade and the war on terrorism will be jeopardized if Chen continues to make moves toward separatism.

In the past few days, the Chinese state media has quoted official think-tank members as saying Taiwan's holding of "anti-mainland" referenda would justify a military reaction from Beijing.

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