US Pacific commander flies to Peking for talks on China's threat to invade Taiwan

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The Independent Online

The Commander of US forces in the Pacific is due to arrive tomorrow for an official visit in Peking, as tensions grow over China's ultimatum to Taiwan on reunification.

The Commander of US forces in the Pacific is due to arrive tomorrow for an official visit in Peking, as tensions grow over China's ultimatum to Taiwan on reunification.

The visit by Admiral Dennis Blair, who will meet China's top military leaders in Peking and the southern city of Nanjing,comes less than a week after China threatened in a government policy paper to attack Taiwan unless there was progress towards its reunification with the mainland. The policy paper provoked an angry response from Taiwan, and the United States, which was a strong ally of the island during the Cold War and is obliged by law to help defend it.

Su Chi, the chairman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, said yesterday: "This reveals how Communist China's leaders reject and fear democracy." The threat "highlights the contrast between the two sides. One favours democracy and peace, the other totalitarianism and violence," he said.

Mr Su said Taiwan "would absolutely reject any use of threats or force to solve problems between the two sides".

Peking seems to be trying to discourage pro-independence sentiment ahead of Taiwan's presidential elections on March 18. At the last elections in 1996, the United States sent two aircraft battle groups to the Taiwan Strait when Pekinglaunched missiles and carried out threatening war manoeuvres near the island.

China and Taiwan separated about 50 years ago during a civil war. Taipei favours joining the mainland only when it becomes more democratic and more economically developed.

Peking's latest warning stepped up the rhetoric against Taiwan. China said previously that only a declaration of independence from Taiwan or foreign interference would prompt a Chinese attack.

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