Chinese Could OK Military Action

A proposed Chinese anti-secession law would authorize Beijing (search) to take military action to stop rival Taiwan from pursuing formal independence if peaceful persuasion fails, a leader of China's parliament said Tuesday.

Wang Zhaoguo (search), reading out the proposed law for the first time before a meeting of the figurehead National People's Congress, didn't give any details as to what specific developments might trigger Chinese military action.

"If possibilities for a peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted, the state shall employ nonpeaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Wang, deputy chairman of the NPC's Standing Committee, told the nearly 3,000 Congress members gathered in the Great Hall of the People (search).

However, he emphasized, "Using nonpeaceful means to stop secession in defense of our sovereignty and territorial integrity would be our last resort when all our efforts for a peaceful reunification should prove futile."

Beijing claims Taiwan (search), split from the mainland since 1949, as part of its territory. The mainland government has threatened repeatedly to invade if Taiwan tries to make its independence permanent, and the new proposed law doesn't impose any new conditions or make new threats.

A final vote on the law is scheduled for March 14. It is certain to pass, because the NPC routinely approves all legislation already decided by Communist Party leaders.

The law lays out for the first time the legal requirements for taking military action, saying the Chinese Cabinet and the government's Central Military Commission "are authorized to decide on and execute nonpeaceful means and nonpeaceful measures."

Wang repeated complaints that activists who are agitating for Taiwan independence are a "serious threat to peace and security in the Taiwan Straits and the Asia-Pacific region as a whole."

He cited plans by Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian to hold a referendum on a new constitution that Beijing worries could include a declaration of independence for the island.

Taiwan-China tensions have risen sharply over Beijing's plan to pass the legislation.

Chinese officials have previously said the proposed law is not a "war mobilization" act, but China's communist government has long warned it will use force if need be to defend its claim to Taiwan. That could lead to conflict with the United States, Taiwan's main arms supplier.

In a nationally televised speech Saturday opening the 10-day session, Premier Wen Jiabao vowed never to permit formal independence for Taiwan.

Wen said the law reflects the "strong determination of the Chinese people to ... never allow secessionist forces working for `Taiwan independence' to separate Taiwan from China."

A protest in Taiwan on Sunday drew more than 15,000 people denouncing the law.