TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ Taiwan is an independent and sovereign country that will resist China's reunification attempts in the next decade, President Lee Teng-hui told The Washington Post in an interview published today.

Lee made the unusually forceful remarks in an apparent attempt to counter Chinese efforts to win international backing of its claim to Taiwan.

China considers Taiwan a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.

President Clinton, who met Chinese President Jiang Zemin in Washington last week, reaffirmed there is only one China and that Washington recognizes Beijing, not Taipei.

``(Our) people don't agree that Taiwan is a province of China,'' Lee said in the interview. ``Taiwan is Taiwan. ... We are an independent, sovereign country.''

Lee also was quoted as saying Taiwan rejects China's plan to reunify with it in the next decade.

``Here, it's a democratic society,'' he said. ``We have our own reunification timetable. When China becomes free, democratic and has social justice _ in that case, we will have unification.''

The remarks reflected Lee's usual defiant stance, although they were more strongly worded than past remarks. Taiwan's political status is a sensitive issue because China has threatened to use force against the island if it declares formal independence.

But Lee frequently has argued that the Republic of China, Taiwan's official name, has been an independent country since the 1911 Chinese revolution, long before Mao Tse-tung's communists took over the Chinese mainland in 1949.

Lee has maintained that Taipei and Beijing are two equal political entities that should both be recognized by the world before eventual unification.