Taiwan shrugs off Chinese troop threat

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The Independent Online

China's war of nerves with Taiwan continued yesterday, as troops began massing on the coastline of the Taiwan Strait. Peking officially regards Taiwan as a "renegade province", and is angrily trying to prevent Taiwan's moves towards greater international recognition.

The French Foreign Minister, Herve de Charette, insisted, however, that a meeting with the Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, had eased his fears of military conflict.

The Taiwanese authorities, too, were keen to allay fears, saying that although there was a "gradual increase" in the number of troops along the south-east coast, there was "no sign of mass troops gathering". Yin Tsung Wen, head of Taiwan's National Security Bureau, said that this was only a "routine exercise", and should not be associated with "an attempt at invasion". Fears of invasion have caused sharp drops on the Taiwan stock exchange in recent weeks.

In another reminder of Chinese sensitivity, China hinted that it might boycott this year's Olympic Games in Atlanta if the Taiwanese president, Lee Teng Hui, is allowed to attend.

In 1994 China prevented Mr Lee from attending the Asian Games in Hiroshima. Wu Shaozu, head of the Chinese Olympic committee, said: "If something similar happens in Atlanta, things will get much worse than Hiroshima."

A "private" visit by Mr Lee to the US in June triggeredthreats from Peking.