BEIJING – Premier Wen Jiabao (search) said a law passed Monday by China's parliament authorizing force if rival Taiwan pursues formal independence is not a "war bill" and said it wasn't meant to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait (search).
"This is a law advancing peaceful unification between the sides. It is not targeted at the people of Taiwan, nor is it a war bill," Wen said at a news conference after the law was passed by the ceremonial National People's Congress (search).
"So long as there is a ray of hope, we will do our utmost to promote a peaceful reunification," he said.
Taiwan and China split in 1949, but Beijing (search) claims the island as its territory and has threatened repeatedly to attack if Taiwan pursues formal independence or puts off talks on unification.
In an apparent effort to mollify Washington, which says it doesn't want to see either side change the status quo unilaterally, Wen said the law "is not aimed to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, which is that both sides belong to one country."
Wen also referred to the U.S. Civil War of the 1860s, saying the law resembles resolutions passed by Congress before the states of the southern Confederacy seceded and war erupted.
"We here do not wish to see such a situation," Wen said at the nationally televised news conference.
The premier also appealed for international understanding.
"We hope all the countries and people in the world that uphold the one-China principle and want peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait will support this law," he said.
However, Wen also reiterated China's assertion that Taiwan is strictly an internal Chinese matter and cautioned outsiders not to get involved.
"We do not wish to see foreign interference," Wen said, adding, "However, we do not fear foreign interference."