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Taiwan's Governing Party Not Likely to Accept Chinese Offer of Talks

Taiwan political leaders are reacting with concern about comments made by China's premier concerning cross-strait relations. But they differ about whether the island should accept an offer for talks.

The head of Taiwan's governing Democratic Progressive Party says he is dismayed by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's comment that China was "prepared for all eventualities" to prevent Taiwan from moving toward independence. Many on Taiwan saw the comment as a veiled threat of military action.

At the close of China's National People's Congress in Tuesday, Mr. Wen also blasted Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian, saying his proposed constitutional changes and the scrapping of policy guidelines on eventual unification are a provocation.

But the Chinese leader also offered an olive branch of sorts, saying Beijing is ready to hold talks with any party in Taiwan, including the DPP, on the condition that it gives up pursuing independence for the island.

DPP Secretary-General Lin Chia-lung told VOA Wednesday that while his party welcomes the willingness to talk, the Beijing government has to make such a proposal without any conditions.

"It seems like just empty rhetoric because China uses talk as a tactic to divide and rule Taiwan society," he said.

The DPP has advocated independence for the island, angering Beijing, which considers Taiwan part of its territory.

The Kuomintang, or KMT, leads the opposition, and is against independence. The party favors improving the relationship with the mainland.

KMT Chairman Ma Ying Jeou, who is also mayor of Taipei, says his party is willing to talk with Beijing.

Ma says both the DPP government and the leadership in Beijing must share the blame for the tensions across the Taiwan Strait over the past few years.

"We are watching all these developments with dismay and worry … We call upon both sides to cease doing that. They should really stick to the status quo," he said.

Taiwan has been governed separately since KMT forces fled mainland China as the Communists took over in 1949. The Beijing leadership vows to halt any attempts by Taiwan to declare formal independence, by force if necessary.

The United States has promised to help Taiwan defend itself against attack by mainland China, but urges both sides to avoid any unilateral action that would change the status quo.

Since his re-election in 2004, Taiwan's President Chen has seen his approval rating dwindle because of an economic downturn and a perception that he has not kept promises on a variety of issues, including tensions with China.