China says Taiwan's opposition leader needs to explain mainland policy

BEIJING (REUTERS) - The presidential hopeful for Taiwan's pro-independence opposition party needs to clearly explain what her policy is towards China and how she intends to maintain peace between the two sides, the Chinese government said on Wednesday.

China has been stepping up its rhetoric against Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who has just completed a visit to the United States, Taiwan's most important international supporter.

While in Washington, Tsai sought to ease concern that if she wins the January vote, relations with China would be negatively affected, and reiterated her support for the status quo with China.

Speaking in Beijing, a spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office said that Tsai made "all sorts of comments" about relations with China while she was in the United States.

"Opposing Taiwan independence and upholding the '92 consensus is the joint political basis or peaceful development of cross-strait relations, and the core part of that is recognising that the mainland and Taiwan are both part of one China," spokesman Ma Xiaoguang told a regular news briefing.

The "1992 consensus" refers to Beijing's cherished "one China" principle that includes Taiwan as part of China.

"Cross-strait relations are not relations between countries. The DPP needs to clearly say what kind of relations exist between the two sides," Ma added.

Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 at the end of a civil war with the Communists that has never formally ended. China considers Taiwan a renegade province, to be brought under its control by force, if necessary.

Since 2008, Taiwan's pro-China President Ma Ying-jeou has signed a series of landmark trade and economic agreements with China, though there have been no political talks and deep suspicions exist on both sides, especially in proudly democratic Taiwan.

Developments since 2008 did not spring up from thin air and are contingent upon accepting the consensus, the spokesman Ma said.

"Wavering from the core meaning of this basis means there can be no talk of the peaceful development of cross-strait ties," he said. "So, compatriots on both sides of the strait need the DPP to clearly answer - what relations exist between the sides, what is the basis for their development, and how can peaceful development of ties be maintained."

The DPP has a strong chance of retaking power after routing the ruling Nationalist Party in local elections in November.