Analysts blame Washington for giving him unprecedented freedom on US soil Increasing boldness by Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian is forcing the central government to adopt a tougher line on relations with both Taiwan and the United States, mainland analysts said yesterday. Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Li Weiyi this week criticised the Taiwanese leader, using unusually harsh rhetoric. Describing Mr Chen's past assurances that he would not seek independence as 'lies', he said: '[We] must make preparations to crush the plans of the Taiwan separatists.' Mr Li said also that Premier Wen Jiabao would put the Taiwan issue at the top of his agenda for next month's meeting with US President George W. Bush in Washington. Analysts said the briefing marked the start of a concerted effort to project a tougher position. 'The words are a major warning,' said Niu Jun, a Sino-US relations expert at Peking University's School of International Studies. 'The meaning should be very clear for both Taiwan and the US.' Others said it was clear that the government's past approach of refraining from belligerent action against Taipei was being challenged, as it had failed to prevent Mr Chen from making political gains both domestically and with the US. One Beijing analyst said: 'The situation now shows that the government is damned if it threatens Chen and damned if it doesn't.' The trigger for the Taiwan Affairs Office's outburst appears to have been Mr Chen's statement on Monday that he wanted a new constitution for the island by 2006, reversing a previous claim that he only wanted to amend the current constitution by 2008. This came just days after his highly publicised transit stop in the US on the way to presidential inauguration ceremonies in Panama, where he shook hands with US Secretary of State Colin Powell. During a two-day stopover in New York, Mr Chen met the US president's brother, Neil, attended a dinner co-hosted by United Defence, a US weapons manufacturer, and accepted an International League of Human Rights award. The visit appears to have boosted Mr Chen's campaign for re-election in March, with Taiwan's China Times reporting that he had for the first time pulled ahead of his main opponents in opinion polls. Mainland analysts blame Mr Chen's new momentum on Washington's decision to give him unprecedented freedom while on US soil. On previous American visits, Taiwan leaders have only been allowed to attend small, private group meetings and could not make public speeches. Professor Niu said Mr Chen now obviously felt confident enough to push the independence issue to a higher level. 'Why did the US give Chen Shui-bian this opportunity at this time? Now he thinks whatever he does is okay,' he said. For now, analysts said the central government would direct its containment efforts at Washington. When he meets Mr Bush, Mr Wen will make clear that China believes any provocation by Mr Chen is a consequence of US support. Zhu Weidong, of the Chinese Academy of Social Science's Taiwan Research Institute, said Mr Wen would warn Mr Bush against further tightening Taipei ties, particularly military contacts, as they gave the appearance that the US supports Mr Chen's re-election. 'The Taiwan people should not be given the wrong message,' Professor Zhu said. Analysts also said Mr Wen would propose some form of co-operation with Washington to minimise the Taiwan 'instability' factor.