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Chinese military ready for "necessary" casualties over Taiwan

AFP

Senior Chinese military officers warned Taiwan it was staring into the abyss of war and the mainland was ready for "necessary" casualties if the island pursued its independence drive.

The comments in the state-run Outlook Weekly magazine, carried by the Xinhua news agency and major websites, followed Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian's plan to hold a referendum on the island's future.

Two People's Liberation Army (PLA) officers quoted by the magazine said Chen would be held responsible if war breaks out and said separatists "will be treated the same way war criminals are dealt with elsewhere in the world".

"Chen has touched on the mainland's bottomline on the Taiwan question," said Luo Yuan, a senior colonel with the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences.

"He is actually playing with fire. It is very dangerous -- and immoral as well -- for Chen and his predecessor Lee Teng-hui to take the restraints and tolerance of the mainland as signs of weakness.

"If they refuse to come to their senses and continue to use referenda as an excuse to seek Taiwan independence, they will push Taiwan compatriots into the abyss of war," he said.

Premier Wen Jiabao has indicated China was willing to "pay any price" to deter Taiwan independence, and these prices were outlined by Major General Peng Guangqian, also with the Academy.

They include boycotts of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, decreasing foreign investment, worsening foreign relations, economic recession, and "necessary" casualties of the PLA, he said in the magazine.

"All these prices are bearable when compared with the Taiwan issue, which is of the highest interest for the Chinese nation," he said.

"If Taiwan separatists want to gamble on it (by pushing for independence), they will pay a heavy price and be defeated with shame. We will definitely intervene."

Chen, from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, said at the weekend that China's deployment of 496 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan had prompted him to push for a vote to safeguard the country's sovereignty.

He argued a referendum law passed last week by parliament allowed him to stage a "defensive" vote on "issues of national security concern" in the event of a foreign threat.

China, which regards Taiwan as part of Chinese territory awaiting reunification, has repeatedly threatened to attack the island should it declare formal independence.
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