U.S. President George W. Bush warned Taiwan Tuesday to stop antagonizing China by making moves toward independence.

With visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at his side, Bush told reporters he opposes Taiwan's planned March 20 sovereignty referendum.

"We oppose any unilateral decision by either China or Taiwan to change the status quo," Bush said.


Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian defended the referendum as as a way to avoid conflict with China.

"A defensive referendum is for avoiding war and to help keep the Taiwanese people free of fear," he said. "It is also for preserving the status quo."

The referendum plans to ask the people of self-ruled Taiwan if it should demand China remove hundreds of missiles aimed at the island.

Bush maintained that he prefers Beijing and Taipei to resolve their differences peacefully, fearing that an unstable situation in the Taiwan Strait could be dangerous.

Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. has pledged to defend Taiwan if the mainland attacks it.

Weeks after Bush took office he said he would do whatever it took to protect Taiwan against a Chinese attack.

The discussion of a nuclear free North Korean Peninsula was also discussed by the two leaders.