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China Threatens Use of Force In Taiwan With Recent Paper

By John Pomfret

China warned Monday it will use military force against Taiwan if the island’s leaders indefinitely delay negotiations on reunification with the mainland, adding a new element of tension to East Asia’s most volatile standoff.

The ultimatum significantly broadened China’s long-standing threat to invade the island under certain conditions. China previously had said it would take Taiwan by force if it declares independence or is occupied by a foreign power. Now an unspecified delay in reunification talks has been added to the list.

The warning was issued in an official white paper from the State Council, the highest organ of China’s government. One of an irregular series of policy statements, it came just one month from presidential elections in Taiwan, which split off from China after the 1949 civil war that brought Mao Zedong and the Communist Party to power.

“If the Taiwan authorities refuse ... the peaceful settlement of cross-straits reunification through negotiations, then the Chinese government will only be forced to adopt all drastic measures possible, including use of force,” the paper said.

At the same time it issued the warning, the white paper appeared to agree to one of Taiwan’s main conditions for political talks with Beijing -- that Taiwan be treated as an equal and not as a local government. This has been an important sticking point, with China insisting Taiwan is a renegade province and the island’s leaders demanding recognition of their half-century of separate government.

The paper also suggested China would be justified in attacking Taiwan if the United States continues arms sales to the island, whose political system is becoming more democratic, or if Taiwan revises its constitution to modify support of the “one China” principle -- the idea that, even though Beijing and Taipei have separate governments, there is only one China.

U.S. officials in Washington said the State Department is studying the lengthy document carefully, particularly the section saying China has added a new criterion for deciding on an invasion.