February 18, 2008 / 3:35 AM / 11 years ago

China "deeply concerned" over Kosovo independence

BEIJING (Reuters) - China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, said on Monday it was deeply concerned about Kosovo unilaterally declaring independence from Serbia and urged both sides to continue negotiations.

"China expresses its deep concern about Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in a statement posted on its Web site (www.fmprc.gov.cn).

“Kosovo’s unilateral act could produce a series of consequences that will lead to a seriously negative influence on peace and stability in the Balkan region and on the realization of building a multi-ethnic society in Kosovo,” Liu said.

China, which faces independence movements in several regions, was “deeply worried” about Kosovo’s declaration, the statement said, adding that the international community should create “positive conditions” for peace and stability.

"All along China has deemed negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo to reach a mutually acceptable plan as the best way to resolve the Kosovo problem," the central government said on its Web site (www.gov.cn).

The Chinese government urged its citizens to act with caution when traveling to the area.

An emergency U.N. Security Council meeting failed to agree on a plan for Kosovo, which is looking forward to recognition by the Western powers that went to war to save its Albanian majority.

Russia has served notice the new state will never be forced on its Serb allies in the territory.

WORRYING PRECEDENT

For China, recognition would set a worrying precedent for its own territorial battles.

China and self-ruled Taiwan have faced off since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, and Beijing has warned of conflict if the democratic island formally declares independence.

It also faces separatist sentiments in its far-western regions of Xinjiang and Tibet and its ruling Communist Party brooks no challenge to its rule in the sometimes restive regions.

A spokeswoman for Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said Taiwan wanted to build relations with Kosovo and may look at establishing formal diplomatic ties. Taiwan looks to its handful of diplomatic allies for legitimacy against China.

“Our consistent position is that we want to develop relations with any free and democratic country,” ministry spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh said.

But China quickly hit back.

“It is known to all that Taiwan, as a part of China, has no right and qualification at all to make the so-called recognition,” Liu said in a posting on the Foreign Ministry’s Web site.

Two commentaries in the Beijing News, one of China’s bolder newspapers, offered differing perspectives on Kosovo.

One said that while Serbia must regret the loss of territory that was a part of its history, it was better to solve the problem “through the growth and decline of the strength of the two sides than resort to violent conflict”.

“The blasting fuse of the Balkan powder keg has been removed,” it said.

But the second piece warned of the knock-on “butterfly effect” of Kosovo’s declaration of independence, saying countries from Russia to Spain to Belgium would have to prepare for the “negative impact” on their own separatist movements.

Additional reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim in Beijing and Ralph Jennings in Taipei; Editing by Alex Richardson

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