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May 30, 2017

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Jiang warns Rice China won't'sit idle'if U.S. backs Taiwan independence

China's military strongman and former president Jiang Zemin on Thursday told visiting US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice China would not "sit idle" if foreign forces supported Taiwan independence.

"If Taiwan authorities are determined to pursue Taiwan independence; if foreign forces interfere and support this, we would definitely not sit idle without doing anything," Jiang was paraphrased on Chinese state-run television station CCTV as saying.

The aging but still powerful leader's veiled warnings against U.S. military intervention if Taiwan formally declares independence and China attacks the island came amid increasing tension between Beijing and Taipei. Jiang was cited telling Rice the Taiwan issue was the "most sensitive" issue in Sino-U.S. relations and expressing dismay with Washington's weapons sales to the island.

"The U.S. sides' recent series of actions, especially plans to sell arms to Taiwan made Chinese people feel seriously concerned and dissatisfied," said Jiang, chairman of the Central Military Commission.

He said while China prefers to settle the Taiwan issue peacefully, it "will definitely not tolerate Taiwan independence."

Rice's two-day visit is expected to focus not only on Taiwan, but U.S. efforts to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

A senior administration official travelling with Rice told AFP she conveyed President George W. Bush's reaffirmation of U.S. backing for the One-China policy, which recognizes Taiwan as a part of China, and his "non-support" for Taiwan independence.

Rice, however, reiterated Washington's commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act, under which the United States pledges to defend Taiwan if it is attacked.

"Rice, on behalf of the president, expressed our continuing commitment to the obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act and opposition to unilateral steps to change the status quo," said the official who declined to be identified.

China considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, and has refused to recognize Taiwan's 55 years of de-facto independence since the end of a civil war in 1949.

Beijing has loudly urged the United States to curb Taiwan's pro-independence President Chen Shui-bian from moving toward a formal split, seeing high-tech weapons sales to the island as emboldening independence advocates.

Beijing's message to Rice comes in the context of huge U.S. joint military exercises in the West Pacific this summer.

The U.S. official declined to say whether the exercises were discussed Thursday.

Please see RICE on page

(Related story on page 15)

Specific human rights cases, religious freedom and weapons proliferation issues were raised by Rice during discussions, said the official, who declined to give details.

A U.S. source said Rice specifically raised concerns about retired military doctor Jiang Yanyong who exposed Beijing's coverup of last year's SARS epidemic, but is now reported by U.S. media to be under 24-hour supervision and being forced to undergo "brainwashing sessions."

He had recently called for a government reassessment of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

Rice, who meets President Hu Jintao Friday before leaving for Seoul, painted a positive picture of U.S.-China relations.

"China is an important power in Asia and globally and we have an excellent relationship with China," she said.

"It's a relationship that we think is built on mutual trust and an understanding that China and the United States need to cooperate."

Rice's visit coincided with a call from North Korea's defense chief for soldiers to step up combat preparations, denouncing the United States for plotting an attack on the Stalinist country.

At six-party talks in Beijing last month, the United States offered Pyongyang three months to shut down and seal its nuclear weapons facilities in return for economic and diplomatic rewards.

The U.S. sees China as a key partner in trying to end the standoff. Beijing has urged Washington to soften its tone and has indicated displeasure over the deployment this month of 10 F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighters to South Korea.

(See related story on page 15)

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