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Thursday, 25 May, 2000, 18:50 GMT 19:50 UK
Taiwan plays down China exercises
Taiwanese marines watch one of their ships from a bunker
Taiwanese marines watch their ships from a bunker
China has begun a series of military exercises near Taiwan, barely a week after the island inaugurated its new president.

Taiwan's military played down the threat from the drills, describing them as "routine".

However the exercises, scheduled to run until 31 May, pushed Taiwan's stock market lower.

The benchmark TAIEX lost the gains it had made earlier from the United States trade vote on China.

Officials in Quemoy, the Taiwanese island just across from the Chinese mainland, said the wargames were directed at the new president, Chen Shui-bian.



"They are obviously using the exercises to pressure President Chen, but I don't see any imminent danger," County chief Chen Shui-tsai said.

China, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province, has issued repeated warnings to Taipei not to push for its independence.

On Wednesday, China banned one of Taiwan's top pop stars after she sang the island's national anthem at the inauguration of Mr Chen last Saturday.

'No sincerity'

In Beijing, the Chinese press on Thursday kept up the pressure on Taiwan, accusing Mr Chen of covertly supporting independence for the island.

"As the Taiwan leader has not given up his 'Taiwan independence' stance, he has no sincerity and goodwill to create a new age of reconciliation," the official Xinhua news agency reported in a commentary.

Last week, the Chinese press ran photographs of recent military exercises in the Nanjing area, which faces Taiwan.


Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan President
President Chen has toed a cautious line
Tension has been running high since Mr Chen, who is deeply distrusted by Beijing, won the presidential elections in March.

Mr Chen took a cautious line in his inauguration speech, saying he will not declare independence.

His speech was seen as an attempt to placate China, but Beijing continues to insist that Taiwan must embrace the "One China" policy.

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See also:

24 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
China bans Taiwan's Madonna
20 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan leader rules out independence
24 Mar 00 | Taiwan Election
Taiwan's man of the people
14 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
China warns Taiwan over elections
20 May 00 | Media reports
Taiwan leader hails new era
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