HONG KONG -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, during his two-day visit to Beijing, tried to persuade Chinese leaders that Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian's offer of talks provided an opportunity for a cross-strait dialogue, but, as expected, Powell was rebuffed.

The outcome was predictable because, as Chen knows well, China's precondition for talks is that Taiwan accept the "one China" principle and stop its continuing move toward independence. As long as Chen refuses to do so, talks are not possible, no matter how many "olive branches" he ostentatiously holds out.

The Taiwan leader's "Double Tenth" speech was delivered to mark the 93rd anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China on the mainland -- a time when Taiwan was still a Japanese colony. Yet Chen declared: "The sovereignty of the Republic of China is vested with the 23 million people of Taiwan. The Republic of China is Taiwan, and Taiwan is the Republic of China. This is an indisputable fact."