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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 April, 2004, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
Taiwan denies independence talk
Foreign Minister Chen Tan-sun
Foreign Minister Chen insists the reforms will not damaged relations
Taiwan has denied that plans to amend its constitution are a step towards independence from China.

"I firmly believe that the constitutional reform will be carried out under the existing framework," said Foreign Minister Chen Tan-sun.

His comments came shortly after Washington warned Taiwan not to jeopardise the status quo with Beijing.

China considers Taiwan a renegade province, and has threatened to invade if the island declares independence.

Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian has angered China with proposals to rewrite Taiwan's new constitution, which could be put to a national vote in 2006 and implemented in 2008.

President Chen - who narrowly won Taiwan's controversial election on 20 March - has repeatedly denied seeking to change the island's political status.

He insists the planned constitutional amendments are only concerned with local issues such as streamlining the government and amending compulsory military service.

On Wednesday, US Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly warned Taiwan against making any moves towards independence from China.

"We have very real concerns that our efforts at deterring Chinese coercion might fail if Beijing ever becomes convinced Taiwan is embarked on a course toward independence and permanent separation from China," Mr Kelly said.

"The possibility for the United States to become involved in a cross-Strait conflict is very real," he said.

Washington has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but US law requires Washington to provide Taiwan with the weapons it needs to defend itself.

During US Vice-President Dick Cheney's visit to China last week, President Hu Jintao urged him to "oppose Taiwan independence".

Mr Cheney said the US did not back any moves for Taiwan to separate from the mainland, but opposed the use of force in any reunification.


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