Jiang Zemin sets 2020 deadline for return of island to mainland
Central Military Commission chairman Jiang Zemin has warned that Taiwan's return to the mainland must be resolved by 2020 and that the military is capable of stopping an independence bid by the island, according to the Beijing-backed Wen Wei Po newspaper.
Quoting official mainland military sources, the report is the first in which a specific date has been put forward publicly as a deadline for reunification.
'The Taiwan issue cannot be indefinitely dragged on ... The Taiwan leadership is so bold as to initiate the Taiwan independence movement. Our military has the capability and strategy to defeat it,' the report quoted sources as saying.
However, mainland analysts cautioned against reading the report as an ultimatum, saying that it should be assessed within the context in which Mr Jiang made the remarks.
One analyst noted the principle of resolving the Taiwan situation soon was already stated in Beijing's 2000 white paper on reunification and suggested that the 2020 deadline may be taken out of context.
'There needs to be more understanding of the circumstances of [Mr Jiang's] speech before any assessment of it is given,' the analyst said.
According to the report, Mr Jiang presented the timetable in a speech during a recent PLA meeting. The report said that while the next two decades presented China with the best opportunity for peaceful economic development, war might break out if Taiwan made any moves towards independence.
It said the US had used cross-strait tensions to constrict the mainland and that American support of Taiwan had prolonged its separation from the rest of China.
It blasted Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's plans to hold referendums and revise the island's constitution as a 'Taiwan independence timetable'.
The report also said that the Taiwanese authorities would not be so bold without US backing. However, it reiterated China's position that it did not seek a direct conflict with the US, but would resort to military action if foreign powers supported the island's independence.