Taiwan announces landmark China visit

Officials set date for talks next month, paving the way for first high-level meetings in six decades.

Last updated: 28 Jan 2014 10:52
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China considers Taiwan a renegade province and has never ruled out using force against the island [AFP]

A leading politician in Taiwan has plans to visit mainland China next month for the first official contact between the rival states in six decades.

Taiwan's chief policymaker on China announced his impending visit on Tuesday in a press briefing.

Wang Yu-chi, chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, is scheduled to fly to the mainland on February 11 to meet his Chinese counterpart, Zhang Zhijun, leader of China's Taiwan Affairs Office.

"The trip has crucial implications for further institutionalisation of the ties between the two sides of the Straits," Wang told a press briefing.

Taiwan and China will discuss setting up representative offices in both places, Taiwan's participation in international bodies and issues on medical care for Taiwan students in China, Wang said.

The aim of the talks is to create "a normal communication mechanism so as to avoid misunderstandings", Wang added.

"The trip will not touch on highly sensitive political issues," he said.

The talks were "an important move," said Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, according to China state news agency Xinhua.

In October, Chinese President Xi Jinping said a political solution to the standoff could not be postponed forever.

Taiwan President Ma Ying-Jeou later said he saw no urgency for political talks and wanted to focus on trade.

Easing tensions

"We hope and believe that this important step by both sides of the Strait will be conducive to enhancing communication and understanding as well as the joint promotion of future development of cross-Strait ties," Ma said on Tuesday.

The officials will meet in the southern city of Nanjing and China's commercial capital, Shanghai.

Nanjing was briefly the capital during the turbulent 1920s when Taiwan's Nationalist party ruled most of China. The city is also the burial place of Sun Yat-Sen, the founder of modern China, who is revered by both China and Taiwan.

Ma opened Taiwan to trade with China when he took office in 2008 and they have since signed economic pacts cementing mainland China's position as Taiwan's largest trading partner. But booming trade has not brought progress on political reconciliation or reduced military readiness on both sides.

Despite the close economic ties between China and Taiwan, US-armed and backed Taiwan remains a potential flashpoint and its recovery is a priority for China's ruling Communist Party, which is investing billions to modernise its military.

Since Taiwan's split from China 65 years ago, Beijing has refused to renounce the possibility of using force to take back the island, which it regards as a rebel region awaiting reunification with the mainland. 


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