China on Monday expressed "deep concern" over Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia, warning the move could lead to chaos in the Balkans.
"The unilateral approach by Kosovo may cause a series of consequences and lead to severe negative influences on the peace and stability of the Balkan region," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in a statement.
"China expresses deep concern about this."
Kosovo's Albanian-dominated parliament on Sunday unilaterally declared independence from Serbia, a move that the United States and several members of the European Union have said they would recognise.
However Serbia vowed on Sunday to keep Kosovo inside its borders through "peaceful" means, while violence flared around the region as Serbians voiced their protest.
In Belgrade, the Serbian capital, riot police using tear gas and batons dispersed about 800 youths who went on the rampage for several hours, smashing two McDonald's restaurants.
Serbia is backed by Russia in opposing Kosovo's independence, and Moscow called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Sunday but failed to secure backing for its call to declare the move "null and void."
China, one of five permanent members of the Security Council, said it was unhappy Kosovo had acted without getting agreement from the world powers through the UN, but stopped short of expressing outright opposition.
"The resolution of the problem of Kosovo is related to the peace and stability of the Balkan region, the authority and function of the Security Council and the basic principle of international relations," Liu said.
"China has all along thought the best way to resolve the Kosovo problem is to get an acceptable plan for all, via bilateral negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo.
"China calls on Serbia and Kosovo to continue to seek for a proper resolution via negotiations within the framework of international law to maintain the security and stability of the Balkan region."
Zhang Yao, a researcher from the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told AFP China had wanted the UN to take the lead on the issue.
"The UN did not reach a consensus because there's a serious dispute in the UN about this ... and from a legal point of view, Kosovo's independence should be announced by the UN, not Kosovo itself," Zhang told AFP.
"At the moment, it's too early for China to think about the issue of recognising Kosovo because such an issue should be proposed by the UN first."
One potential problem for China is that long-time rival Taiwan may jump in ahead of the Beijing authorities and seek recognition with Kosovo.
China and Taiwan split at the end of a civil war in 1949, and the mainland insists the two sides will eventually reunify under Beijing's control, by force if necessary.
Taiwan, meanwhile, continues with its rearguard effort for international recognition, and has official diplomatic ties with 23 countries.
Nevertheless, Zhang said it would be difficult for Taiwan to establish diplomatic relations with Kosovo, because politicians in Pristina would be well aware such a move would infuriate China.
If China was angered over the Taiwan issue, it would not back any UN recognition of Kosovo, Zhang warned.
"If Kosovo wants to be recognised by the world, it mainly depends on the UN Security Council... China is a permanent member of the council, so if Kosovo has any relations with Taiwan, China won't give Kosovo anything good," he said. (AFP)
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