China warned Tuesday that Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian will "pay a dear price" if he continues with current pro-independence plans.

The warning came from National People's Congress spokesman Jiang Enzhu at a news conference to announce the agenda for the NPC, which opens Wednesday.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. Beijing considers the self-governing island Chinese territory and has threatened military attack if Taiwan tries to formalize its de facto independence.

Chen, who will step down soon after eight years as president, has been known for his pro-independence policies.

An election later this month to pick his successor will also include a referendum asking if Taiwan should try to join the United Nations under that name instead of using its formal name of the Republic of China.

China sees the referendum as a step toward formal independence.

"If the Chen Shui-bian authorities should stubbornly continue down the path, they will surely pay a dear price," Jiang said.

He did not elaborate, other than saying the situation across the Taiwan straight was "grim and complex."