China issues fresh warning to Taiwan over UN bid

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BEIJING, Sep 25 (Reuters) China has sounded a fresh warning to self-ruled Taiwan over a planned referendum on its bid to join the United Nations, saying such a move by an island it considers sovereign territory would endanger regional peace.

Successive bids by Taiwan, recognised by just a handful of countries around the world, for UN membership have failed for the past 15 years. Beijing has threatened to attack the island if it moves towards formal independence.

Jia Qinglin, ranked fourth in the Communist Party hierarchy, said ''splittist activities'' on the island remained ''vehement''.

''The Chen Shui-bian administration has ignored the interests of Taiwan people and international condemnation to obstinately push forward the activities for personal gains,'' Jia told a conference.

Chen is the island's independence-minded president.

''It is set to damage the fundamental interests of compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and threaten peace and stability in the region and Asia-Pacific,'' Jia said, according to a report in the People's Daily.

Chen has scheduled the U.N. referendum for next March to coincide with presidential elections. The move has drawn strong opposition from China and has also displeased the United States, which fears an increase of cross-Strait tension.

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and has vowed to bring the island's people back under mainland rule, by force if necessary.

Jia is one of the Party's nine-member ruling circle, the Politburo Standing Committee, and is in charge of Taiwan affairs.

Taiwan's two attempts last week to put its membership bid on the agenda of the UN General Assembly were easily blocked by China, which is recognised by more than 170 countries, compared with Taiwan's 24.

Critics say the moves are unnecessary provocations aimed at helping Chen's Democratic Progressive Party stay in power and diverting public attention from corruption scandals involving him and his family.

Taiwan, formally known as the Republic of China, was expelled from the United Nations in 1971 in favour of Beijing's People's Republic.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi urged Washington to work with Beijing to curb ''Taiwan independence'' when he met US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in New York on Sunday.

Washington recognises China and has no diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is obliged under the Taiwan Relations Act to help the island defend itself.

REUTERS ARB AS1033

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