China warns US over Taiwan presidential hopeful visit

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China warned the United States on Friday not to send the wrong signals about Taiwan, after the presidential hopeful of the self-ruled island's main opposition party visited Washington to rally support from US officials and politicians.

The 12-day, six-city US tour by Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), is seen as an attempt to ease US concerns that her potential election in a January poll would strain ties with China.

Washington backs a "one-China policy" and has no diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is its main ally. The State Department has declined to give details of Tsai's meetings with US officials, but she has met congressional leaders in Washington.

"China opposes any Taiwan independence people promoting Taiwan independence internationally, or engaging in any Taiwan independence activities," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a regular press briefing.

"We demand that the United States strictly abide by the one-China principle ... not send the wrong signal to Taiwan,"Hong 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.

The first, and so far only, DPP president, Chen Shui-bian infuriated Beijing during his 2000-2008 rule.

China accused him of trying to push for independence and weaken the island's Chinese cultural heritage, even though Chen tried to maintain stable relations, and under his rule limits on cross strait trade and transport links were slowly relaxed.

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

Tsai has said she favours "maintaining the status quo" when asked about her China policy. If elected, she would be the first female president in Taiwan's history.

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