China Warns U.S. To Steer Clear Of Taiwan

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BEIJING: China's foreign minister warned the United States Monday to stay out of its sovereignty dispute with Taiwan as it continues to conduct missile tests near the island. The tests sent stock prices reeling, as Taiwan's main stock index fell two percent. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said Sunday that U.S. warships will move closer to Taiwan due to China's "reckless" efforts to intimidate the island. Beijing officials admit that the tests are intended to dissuade Taiwanese voters from choosing a pro-independence candidate in the island's upcoming presidential elections. TIME's Jaime FlorCruz says China's plan to defeat Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui is backfiring. "The voters who tend to support pro-independence candidates will vote for Lee to show that they will stand up to the mainland's harassment," FlorCruz says. "But if Beijing escalates further and causes crisis in Taiwan, that could derail Lee's election." While Beijing has been firm in its warnings to Taiwan to veer away from independence, it did leave the door open to future negotiations with Taiwan. "They are pragmatic enough to know that if Lee does win the election, they have to keep room open to deal with him," FlorCruz says. Lee is expected to win the March 23 vote, but with 40 percent of voters undecided, he may not win a clear majority. "Future negotiations depend a lot on Lee's margin of victory," FlorCruz predicts. "If he doesn't win 50 percent of the vote, Beijing could claim there is not a clear mandate for independence."Whitewater Trial Begins