Wed, Mar 05, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Presidential election 2008: 17 days to go: Chinese spokesman warns against UN referendums

AFP , BEIJING

China yesterday warned Taiwan that its planned referendum this month on UN membership was putting peace between the two sides at risk.

"If the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) authorities stubbornly move down the path [to a referendum], they will pay a heavy price," Chinese parliamentary spokesman Jiang Enzhu (姜恩柱) told reporters.

Jiang called it "a serious step towards seeking de jure [legal] independence."

"If the Chen Shui-bian authorities should succeed, it will gravely undermine cross-straight relations, undermine the interests of people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits [sic] and threaten the peace and stability in the ... Straits," he said.

Jiang said that the vote on joining the UN was "tantamount" to a referendum on independence.

His comments came as he announced that China's military spending this year would rise 17.6 percent to 417.8 billion yuan (US$57.2 billion).

Jiang insisted that Beijing was committed to peacefully achieving reunification.

"But at the same time, we will make well our preparations and firmly curb the dangerous activities of Taiwan independence forces," he said. "The situation across the Taiwan Straits is at a crucial stage ... we will never permit any person under any name and in any manner to split Taiwan from China."

Taiwan, under its official name the Republic of China, lost its UN seat to the People's Republic of China in 1971 and is now recognized diplomatically by 23 countries.

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