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China piles on the rhetoric against Taiwan's Chen

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BEIJING, Feb 23 (Reuters) China issued another volley of rhetoric against Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian today, branding his plan to scrap a council advising on eventual unification with the mainland as a ''dangerous provocation''.

China and Taiwan have been political foes since 1949 when the Nationalists lost the Chinese civil war to the Communists and fled to the island, which China claims as its own and has vowed to attack if it formally declares statehood.

Chen, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, announced last month that he would abolish the National Unification Council and guidelines on unification, introduced by the Nationalist government in 1990.

A signed commentary by the state-run Xinhua news agency said Chen's move was to divert Taiwan people's attention from a listless domestic economy and to consolidate power.

''He has placed all the stakes on provocation and creating crises,'' the commentary said without referring to Chen by name.

''The safety and well-being of Taiwan people have been made his personal political sacrifices.'' The United States has been wary of the latest developments as in a deliberately delicate piece of diplomacy it recognises the mainland as China's sole legitimate government but is also obliged by law to help defend Taiwan in case of a conflict.

''We hope the concerned countries will be vigilant about the wrong and even dangerous actions of Taiwan independence forces,'' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular news conference today.

Chen ended more than 50 years of Nationalist rule in Taiwan by winning the presidential election in 2000 for the DPP, which is advocating a separate Taiwan identity and trying to shake off China's claim of sovereignty. He was re-elected in 2004.

Reuters SHR RS1836

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