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US unease over Taiwan bill

Washington, March 9 (Reuters): The White House urged Beijing yesterday to reconsider an 'unhelpful' bill that would give China the right to attack Taiwan if it tried to secede, and US lawmakers questioned whether the United States was showing enough military might in Asia.

The top US military commander in the Pacific called the proposed measure a cause for concern and told Congress that China was pursuing a broad military build-up.

China, which views self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory, outlined an anti-secession bill yesterday that would allow military force to head off any independence bid by Taiwan. The Chinese parliament is expected to approve the bill on March 14.

'We view it as unhelpful and something that runs counter to recent trends toward a warming in cross-straits relations (with Taiwan). We call on Beijing to reconsider passage of the law,' White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. 'We oppose any attempts to determine the future of Taiwan by anything other than peaceful means,' McClellan said.

US policy under the Taiwan Relations Act is to maintain an ability to resist any use of force or coercion against Taiwan, and the law obligates Washington to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself. President George W. Bush vowed in 2001 to do 'whatever it took' to help Taiwan defend itself.

Admiral William Fallon, who took over the US Pacific Command last month, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that China was acquiring 'significant' military capabilities 'in just about every area.' It was buying submarines and aircraft from Russia as well as building their own.

'Although I feel that we have very robust US and allied capabilities in the area, it's certainly cause for concern to see this continuing buildup,' he said. 'It seems to be more than might be required for their defence. We're certainly watching it very closely, and how we match up against these capabilities,' he said.

Death penalty

China hinted at reform of the death penalty today in a Supreme Court report to parliament. China executes more people than any other country but the government does not make the number public.

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