China brings in legislation for use of force if Taiwan seeks independence
BEIJING (AP) - China unveiled a law Tuesday authorizing an attack if Taiwan moves toward formal independence, increasing pressure on the self-ruled island while warning other countries not to interfere. The United States said Beijing should reconsider.
Taiwan denounced the legislation as a "blank cheque to invade" and announced war games aimed at repelling an attack.
The proposed anti-secession law, read out for the first time before the ceremonial National People's Congress, does not specify what actions might invite a Chinese attack.
"If posibilities for a peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted, the state shall employ nonpeaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Wang Zhaoguo, deputy chairman of the congress' Standing Committee, told the nearly 3,000 members gathered in the Great Hall of the People.
Beijing claims Taiwan, which split from China since 1949, as part of its territory. The communist mainland repeatedly has threatened to invade if Taiwan tries to make its independence permanent, and the new law does not impose any new conditions or make new threats. But it lays out for the first time legal requirements for military action.
The White House said China should reconsider passage of the law.
"We view it as unhelpful - something that runs counter to recent trends toward a warming in cross-strait relations," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "We would call on Beijing to reconsider passage of the law. The draft law that was presented allows for punitive measures directed at Taiwan.
"We oppose any attempts to determine the future of Taiwan by anything other than peaceful means," he said.
Washington has, in the past, indicated it would intervene if China was to try to take Taiwan by force.
Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, which handles the island's China policy, said the law gives China's military "a blank cheque to invade Taiwan" and "exposed the Chinese communists' attempt to use force to annex Taiwan and to be a regional power."
The island's vice-president, Annette Lu, accused Beijing of violating international norms for peacefully resolving disputes, as Taipei prepared for an invasion.
Large-scale military exercises would be held from mid-April to August, with troops practising knocking down Chinese missiles and fighting Chinese commandos, said Taiwan's Defence Ministry spokesman Liu Chih-chien.
Mainland legislators expressed support for the anti-secession measure, which is sure to be passed when they vote March 14. The congress routinely approves all legislation already decided by Communist party leaders.
"We must join hands and absolutely not allow Taiwan to separate from China," said Chang Houchun, a businessman and member of congress from southern China's Guangdong province.
Chinese officials say the law was prompted in part by Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's plans for a referendum on a new constitution for the island that Beijing worries might include a declaration of independence.
Chen says the vote would be aimed at building a better political system, not at formalizing Taiwan's de facto independence.
Chinese leaders have appealed in recent months for Taiwan to return to talks on unification. But they insist that Taiwanese leaders first declare that the two sides are "one China" - a condition that Chen has rejected.
In Taipei, Chen Chin-jun, a legislative leader of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said the island wants peace and trade with China.
However, he said, "We will not accept any resolution to allow the Chinese Communists to unilaterally decide Taiwan's future, and it will only antagonize the Taiwanese."
China and Taiwan have no official ties and most direct travel and shipping between the two sides is banned. But Taiwanese companies have invested more than $100 billion US in the mainland and there is a thriving indirect trade.
In an apparent attempt to calm Taiwanese public anxiety, Wang said the law promises that Chinese military forces would try to avoid harming Taiwanese civilians. He said the rights of Taiwanese on China's mainland also would be protected.
Until recently, China's military was thought to be incapable of carrying out an invasion across the 160-kilometre-wide Taiwan Strait. But Beijing has spent billions of dollars buying Russian-made submarines, destroyers and other high-tech weapons to extend the reach of the 2.5 million-member People's Liberation Army.
i think this legislation is pretty pointless...