BEIJING -- China unveiled a law yesterday authorizing an attack if Taiwan moves toward formal independence, increasing pressure on the self-ruled island while warning other countries not to interfere. The United States said Beijing should reconsider.
Taiwan denounced the legislation as a ''blank check to invade" and announced war games aimed at repelling an attack.
The proposed anti-secession law, read out for the first time before the ceremonial National People's Congress, does not specify what actions might invite a Chinese attack.
''If possibilities for a peaceful reunification should be completely exhausted, the state shall employ nonpeaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Wang Zhaoguo, deputy chairman of the congress's Standing Committee, told the nearly 3,000 members gathered in the Great Hall of the People.
Beijing claims Taiwan, which split from China in 1949, as part of its territory. The communist mainland repeatedly has threatened to invade if Taiwan tries to make its independence permanent, and the new law does not impose any new conditions or make new threats. But it lays out for the first time legal requirements for military action. The White House said China should reconsider passage of the law.
''We view it as unhelpful -- something that runs counter to recent trends toward a warming in cross-strait relations," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. ''We would call on Beijing to reconsider passage of the law. The draft law that was presented allows for punitive measures directed at Taiwan." Washington has, in the past, indicated it would intervene if China was to try to take Taiwan by force.
Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, which handles the island's China policy, said the law gives China's military ''a blank check to invade Taiwan" and ''exposed the Chinese communists' attempt to use force to annex Taiwan and to be a regional power."
The island's vice president, Annette Lu, accused Beijing of violating international norms for peacefully resolving disputes, as Taipei prepared for an invasion.
Mainland lawmakers immediately expressed support for the anti-secession law, which is sure to be passed when they vote March 14. The congress routinely approves legislation already decided by Communist Party leaders.
Chinese officials say the law was prompted in part by Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's plans for a referendum on a new constitution for the island that Beijing worries might include a declaration of independence.
Chen says the vote would be aimed at building a better political system, not at formalizing Taiwan's de facto independence.