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Chinese premier urges U.S. not to 'aggravate' situation

March 17, 1996
Web posted at: 10:45 a.m. EST (1545 GMT)

From Correspondent Mike Chinoy and wire reports

BEIJING (CNN) -- Chinese Premier Li Peng on Sunday warned the United States not to deploy its naval fleet into the Taiwan Strait, saying such an act would aggravate tensions between China, Taiwan and the United States.

"If some people attempt to stage a show of force in the Taiwan Strait, this would be no help. On the contrary, it would aggravate and complicate the situation," Li said in a news conference after being asked how China would respond if U.S. ships entered the strait.

planes and carrier

"The Chinese government will in no way accept the practice of one country imposing its views on another," he added.

The United States has sent two aircraft carrier groups -- led by the USS Independence and USS Nimitz -- to the region to monitor ongoing Chinese war games, which are scheduled to end Wednesday.

Beijing completed separate weeklong missile tests close to Taiwan on Friday, only to announce more exercises will be conducted from Monday through March 25. The new exercises will consist of ground, naval and air maneuvers in the Taiwan Strait.

Lee: exercises are 'state terrorism'

Taiwan holds its first direct presidential election next Saturday. In a nationally televised debate Sunday among four presidential candidates, incumbent and front-runner Lee Teng-hui attacked China for its military exercises.

Lee Teng Hui

"Communist China conducted state terrorism toward Taiwan by using missile tests just before the elections," he said. "This terrorist behavior is aimed at dominating Taiwan's elections."

The other candidates criticized Lee regarding the current crisis. One candidate suggested that Taiwan "should sign a peace agreement" with China and "slow down the process of seeking a U.N. seat."

Lee, however, did not give ground, saying Taiwan's stance would not change. "We cannot dance to their tune," he said.

rally

China has said the exercises are intended to intimidate Taiwan's 21 million residents before the elections, which Beijing fears could encourage an independence drive. China reinforced its intimidation tactics Saturday by saying it has not ruled out invading Taiwan if it seeks independence.

In Taiwan's capital Saturday, thousands of demonstrators gathered undeterred by Beijing's threats, protesting the Chinese aggression and calling for Taiwanese independence. At one point, the crowd burned an effigy of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.

But with the election less than a week away, Taiwan is preparing for the worst. Two small islands with 300 residents have been evacuated and local election commissions were asked to set up special teams to handle emergencies that might arise during Saturday's voting.

'Common ground' needed with U.S., Li says

The election marks the first time the people of Taiwan have freely chosen their head of state. That prospect and efforts by Lee to win greater international recognition for the island have infuriated Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province.

Furthermore, China has repeatedly told the United States not to meddle in its business.

In Sunday's speech, Li -- despite his harsh statements toward the United States -- said China and the United States should seek "common ground" to resolve the issue peacefully.

"The only correct way of ironing out these differences is to carry out dialogues and cooperate on an equal, friendly and frank basis -- seeking common ground while reserving differences, enhancing understanding, reducing troubles and refraining from confrontation," the Chinese premier said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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