China said Thursday it was confused over Newt Gingrich's visits to Beijing and rival Taiwan and hoped his comments did not mark a change in U.S. policy.

Gingrich assured China's leaders last week that Congress supported Beijing's claim to the island, as long as reunification was peaceful. If China tried force, the House speaker said he told the Chinese that Washington would come to Taiwan's defense.Gingrich repeated his comments in Taiwan on Wednesday and President Lee Teng-hui asked for advanced weaponry to defend the island.

Taiwan endured months of menacing Chinese military maneuvers and test-missile launches near its shores in 1995-1996.

"We have discovered the talk of some leaders on the U.S. side, including leaders of Congress, is contradictory," Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang said when asked about Gingrich's remarks.

"They tell us that they won't support Taiwan independence, want peaceful reunification and won't interfere in this issue," Shen told reporters at a routine briefing.

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"But we see that what the U.S. government and the leaders of some government branches say and what they promised are not the same."

The Clinton administration has been debating how explicit to be in defining how the United States would retaliate if China attacks Taiwan. Secretary of State Madeline Albright said Monday that any threat to Taiwan's security would be of "grave concern."

Gingrich's statement was among the clearest in recent years on what the United States would do if China attacked Taiwan. He said he intended it that way because a lack of clarity could tempt Beijing.

Shen urged the U.S. government to speak with one voice and to stop selling weapons to Taiwan and encouraging independence sentiment.

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