BEIJING (AP) – A senior Chinese official warned that Beijing won’t rule out war with Taiwan if the island’s president pursues his plan to adopt a new constitution by 2008, the government’s China Daily newspaper reported Friday.

Wang Zaixi, vice minister of the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office, also said it would be an “unwise move” for Taiwan to buy more advanced weapons from the United States, the paper said.

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian has said he plans to introduce a new constitution for the island when his term ends in 2008. China and Taiwan split in 1949 amid civil war, but Beijing claims Taiwan is a part of its territory and has long said that formal independence would lead to war.

Chinese officials have said for months that Chen’s constitution plans show he wants independence for the island and therefore endanger “peace and stability” across the Taiwan Strait. Chen has said any constitutional changes wouldn’t touch on sovereignty issues.

“New tensions and even a serious crisis in the cross-Straits situation may arise, if Chen obstinately pursues his timetable,” Wang said in an interview with the China Daily.

“We cannot completely rule out the possibility (of a military conflict) though it is not at all what we hope for,” the paper quoted Wang as saying. The paper, writing in English, inserted the parentheses itself.

Wang said there was “no way” political tensions could be eased unless Chen accepts that Taiwan is a part of China. “What we can do is just work hard to prevent bilateral relations from deteriorating,” Wang said.

In Taiwan, Chen criticized China’s recent suggestions that it might adopt a law mandating that Taiwan reunify with the mainland.

“The Chinese communists want to undertake a legal battle to turn Taiwan into a special political district,” Chen said during visit to southern Taiwan on Thursday, the United Daily News reported. “Can the 23 million Taiwanese not be wary about it?”

AP-ES-07-30-04 0705EDT

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