China warns officials against future visits to Taiwan

  Agence France Presse
August 26, 2004

CHINA has warned Singapore officials against visiting Taiwan again after a "private and unofficial" trip by the city-state's new leader just weeks before he took office strained ties with Beijing.

In a statement carried Thursday, Aug 26. by Singapore's Straits Times, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan reacted to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's reaffirmation of his government's "one China" policy.

"We have noted that Singapore's new leader reiterated in his speech (on August 22) that Singapore holds firmly to the one-China policy and is resolutely opposed to Taiwan independence," Kong said.

"We are resolutely opposed to leaders of countries with diplomatic ties with China visiting Taiwan in any capacity and sending any wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces," he said.

The Chinese official said Lee's declaration "is in line with Singapore's interests and the common view of the international community, and will benefit peace and stability in the region."

In his first policy speech delivered last Sunday, Lee, who had visited Taiwan in July to assess the situation before being sworn in as prime minister on August 12, warned Taipei against provoking Beijing by pushing for independence.

"The cross-straits situation is potentially the most dangerous problem in the region," said Lee, a former Singapore Armed Forces brigadier-general.

"My assessment after visiting Taiwan is that there is a real risk of miscalculation and mishap," he added.

"If Taiwan goes for independence, Singapore will not recognise it. In fact no Asian country will recognise it. Nor will European countries. China will fight. Win or lose, Taiwan will be devastated," Lee said.

Chinese state media said earlier this month that talks with Singapore on a free-trade deal may be delayed as a result of Lee's Taiwan visit. Lee has said both sides would lose if the trip was allowed to affect bilateral relations.

But there have been signs of a thaw.

Chinese Ambassador to Singapore Zhang Yun said last week that bilateral relations were expected to strengthen as more Chinese businessmen set up operations in Singapore.

China regards Taiwan as part of its territory waiting to be reunified by force if necessary. The two sides split at the end of a civil war in 1949.

Singapore, a largely ethnic Chinese nation, has positioned itself as a neutral friend to both Beijing and Taipei, investing heavily in the mainland while maintaining economic and military training links with Taiwan.