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China slams France on Taiwan jet deal

BEIJING -- China demanded Thursday that France not sell advanced warplanes to Taiwan and warned it would 'react strongly' if the deal goes through.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry was reacting to news reports that the French aircraft manufacturer Dassault had signed a contract to sell 60 Mirage-2000 jet fighters to the Nationalist Chinese government in Taiwan.

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'If what is reported is true, it is a very serious matter,' Foreign Ministry spokesman Wu Jianmin said at a weekly news briefing.

'We strongly demand that the French government observe the principles concerning the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France and refrain from approving the said contract,' Wu said.

'If the French side ignores China's strong opposition and insists on having its own way, the Chinese side will react strongly,' he added.

Wu refused to elaborate on what retaliation China might take, but bristled when reminded that despite similar threats, Beijing has as yet taken no action against the United States for President George Bush's approval of the sale of F-16 fighters to Taiwan.

'China does what it says,' Wu said.

He said Beijing was 'firmly opposed' to the sale of weapons to Taiwan, whether done in secret or in public.

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Beijing views Taiwan as a renegade province and has persistently opposed foreign nations' sales of military hardware to the island.

Should the Mirage deal go through, Wu said, the French government will 'be held fully responsible for all the serious consequences arising therefrom.'

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