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China's Wen clear message for Bush

'Prevent Taipei from edging toward full-fledged independence'

By Willy Wo-Lap Lam CNN Senior China Analyst

Wen accused Taiwan's leaders of attempting to use democratic practices as
Wen accused Taiwan's leaders of attempting to use democratic practices as "a cover" to achieve independence.

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HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will talk tough on Taiwan in his one-hour meeting with President George W. Bush at the White House on Tuesday.

A Chinese source in Beijing said the usually low-key, soft-spoken premier's message for Bush would be: "Unless Washington takes concrete steps to prevent Taipei from edging toward full-fledged independence, China won't consider America's views or possible actions when making decisions on ways to take back Taiwan."

Implicit in Wen's threat is that possible American military action to help defend Taiwan will not deter China from taking whatever steps it deems necessary to thwart Taiwan independence.

The source added Wen would cite the steps taken by Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian -- and his predecessor Lee Teng-hui -- to achieve "creeping independence" to argue that Washington has repeatedly failed to deliver on its promise to help check Taiwan separatism.

"Wen will tell Bush it is the misleading signals sent by the U.S. that have abetted Chen's recent provocative steps including passing a Law on Referendums," he said.

In an interview with the Chinese media on the eve of Wen's visit, Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Yang Jiechi called on Washington to "handle the Taiwan issue in a cautious, adequate way."

"Stop selling advanced weapons to Taiwan or raise the level of U.S.-Taiwan relations," Yang said. "Don't send wrong signals to 'Taiwan separatist' forces."

Diplomatic analysts in Beijing and Washington said Beijing would be pacified if Bush were to make an unambiguous statement opposing Taiwan independence and opposing referendums involving the island's statehood.

Owing to Beijing's pressure, Washington did earlier this month send an emissary to Taipei to ask Chen not to hold a sovereignty-related referendum on March 20, which is also the day for presidential polls.

However, Chen is going ahead with a slightly milder plebiscite that asks Taiwan residents to air their opposition to Beijing aiming 496 missiles at the island.

In return for Washington constraining Taiwan, Wen is expected to offer a more proactive role by Beijing to force North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs.

The Chinese premier will likely also pledge his nation's support on other fronts of Washington's global war on terrorism.

Because Wen's primary concern on this trip is Taiwan, analysts expect the Chinese team to take a relatively conciliatory stance on trade, another irritant in bilateral ties.

Last week, Beijing announced that a couple of "buying delegations" would resume their trips to the U.S. to purchase American agricultural and other products.

The trips were cancelled after Washington last month slapped quotas on three types of Chinese textiles and garments, as well as anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese TV sets.

Chinese foreign trade officials said Beijing was poised to dramatically boost U.S. imports particularly if Washington would relax restrictions on the export of hi-tech items to China.

The Chinese team, however, is not expected to budge on the contentious issue of the value of the Chinese currency, the renminbi, which is said by Western economists to be undervalued by as much as 30 percent to 40 percent.


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