BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese military expert has urged Taiwan's military to resist moves towards independence, pressing the island's soldiers to "join hands" with mainland forces to avoid possible war.
China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and has vowed to bring the island back under mainland rule, by force if necessary.
The director of a research centre on Taiwan's military at the People's Liberation Army College of Military Sciences in Beijing, Wang Weixing, wrote in state media that Taiwan's armed forces traditionally favoured stronger ties with the mainland.
Beijing fears that as it prepares to host the 2008 Olympic Games, independence-leaning Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian will use a referendum and other steps to deepen the political divide between island and mainland.
Writing in the latest issue of Outlook Weekly, run by China's official Xinhua news agency, Wang said Taiwan's military could serve as a bulwark against "Taiwanese independence".
"Taiwan's military should also join hands with us to oppose Taiwan independence," Wang wrote in the article, reprinted by the China News Service on Friday.
Taiwan soldiers should "become a major force opposing separation of the motherland", Wang added.
The signal from the People's Liberation Army is part of a war of words over the island's future that Beijing has warned could escalate into real confrontation if Taiwan pursues outright independence.
Wang does not speak of mutiny or defection, but he urges Taiwan's soldiers to stand up against pro-independence forces.
"At this major turning-point in cross-Strait relations, the guns of the military forces on both sides must be used to defend national sovereignty and national interests," Wang wrote.
The two sides' officers should meet at the banquet table, not on the battlefield, he added.
Taiwan's efforts to win a seat at the United Nations have repeatedly failed, but Chen has vowed a referendum next year on whether to apply for U.N. membership under the name Taiwan. Legally, the island is still called the Republic of China.