Friday, March 18, 2005

Tide of Tension on Taiwan Strait: Anger at China's Anti-Secession Law Is Tempered With Caution

By Edward Cody, Washington Post Foreign Service, Friday, March 18, 2005; Page A14

TAIPEI, Taiwan, March 17 -- China's new anti-secession law has produced a sudden rise in tension across the Taiwan Strait, leaving Taipei in a combative mood and putting an indefinite hold on practical improvements such as direct airline flights to mainland China.

President Chen Shui-bian, an ardent champion of independence for this self-governing island, has led his countrymen in venting anger at the legislation, calling it a "guillotine" over Taiwan's head. But he has been careful to limit his response to rhetoric, avoiding steps that China would regard as provocative and that could cost Taiwan what it has gained in international sympathy since the law was passed in Beijing on Monday. "We are trying to be the responsible side in this dispute," said Hsiao Bikhim, a legislator and foreign policy specialist in Chen's Democratic Progressive Party.

Nevertheless, the Chinese legislation, with its threat to use "non-peaceful means" to prevent Taiwan's formal independence, has, for the foreseeable future, poisoned what had been an improving atmosphere and canceled out a string of conciliatory gestures from both sides that had raised hopes for progress in the long and bitter standoff.--------------

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