Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (searchsaid Tuesday the Bush administration would deploy sufficient force in the Asia Pacific area to lower tensions between China and Taiwan.

"We have good competent forces there," Armitage said as he also offered assurances that the Bush administration would provide Taiwan with "sufficient defense articles for her self-defense."

Armitage told reporters that "we have full faith that the question of Taiwan will be resolved peacefully."

China considers Taiwan (search) a renegade province that must be reunited with the mainland even though the self-governed, democratic island has never been ruled by Beijing's Communist Party government.

Tensions are escalating. In remarks published Wednesday, Wang Zaixi, vice-minister of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said China will go to war if necessary to curb Taiwan's efforts toward independence.

"If the Taiwan authorities collude with all ... forces to openly engage in pro-independence activities and challenge the mainland and the one-China principle, the use of force may become unavoidable," Wang was quoted as saying in the China Daily.

On Tuesday, a foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing (searchcriticized an American official who reportedly had said the United States did not oppose Taiwan's independence -- but only did not want to support it.

Therese Shaheen, the U.S.-based chair of the American Institute in Taiwan, which looks after U.S. dealings with Taiwan, was quoted by China's official Xinhau News Agency as saying the United States had never said it opposed Taiwan independence.

Asked about the remarks, Armitage said he had no reason to be critical of her. In fact, Armitage said Shaheen was being criticized by both sides, which means "she probably has got it about right."

In Beijing, the Chinese spokesman, Liu Jianchao, said U.S. officials had "reaffirmed to Chinese leaders that the U.S. side adheres to a one-China principle ... and is opposed to Taiwan's independence."

He said Shaheen was not present when the statement was made so her remarks were "rather ridiculous."