China looks to thaw Taiwan ties

Invitation to restart talks frozen for 13 years signals possible thaw in relations.

    Wu Poh-hsiung's visit to China marked the highest-level contact between the sides in 60 years [Reuters]

    There are no regular direct flights between China and Taiwan, aside from a few charters on certain holidays, and Taiwan tightly controls the number of mainland visitors.


    Hope for progress


    China-Taiwan relations

    Taiwan split from mainland China at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949

    Beijing regards Taiwan as part of its territory, and says it will use force to reclaim it if Taipei ever declares independence

    Taiwan has been a multi-party democracy since 1996

    Taiwan's defence ministry says China now has nearly 1,000 missiles aimed at the island

    The US is the major arms supplier to Taiwan and has warned China that any attack on the island would be viewed with "grave concern"

    The invitation letter from the Chinese government department that deals with Taiwan issues said
    "we hope the talks will make progress on the two issues to meet the expectations of people from both sides of the strait". 


    But Tony Cheng, Al Jazeera's China correspondent, said the reality of the relationship is complex and despite signs of thawing ties, it would be a long time before anyone dares to mention the tricky subject of reunification.


    On Wednesday, Wu told Hu that Taiwan needs to have an international presence, but conceded there would be no quick solution to long-standing disputes.


    China has worked hard in recent years to isolate Taiwan diplomatically and cut it off from anything that legitimises possible claims to sovereignty.


    Earlier this month, Chinese pressure thwarted Taiwan's bid for observer status in the World Health Assembly, a UN body.

    But the Kuomintang's, or Nationalist party's defeat of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive party in Taiwan's presidential polls in March has led to an easing of tensions.

    Conciliatory approach


    Ma Ying-jeou, who was sworn in as president last week, has struck a much more conciliatory tone with China than his predecessor, Chen Shui-bian, whose pro-independence rhetoric angered Beijing.


    In the official invitation letter to Taiwan, China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait said the proposed talks in June would be the start of regular consultations based on the so-called "1992 consensus".

    That was a guideline for talks that the mainland and Taiwan reached in 1992, in which each side could interpret the term "One China" in its own way.

    The two sides last held talks based on the agreement in 1995 but China suspended further discussions to protest against a visit to the US the same year by Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan's then president.


    China and Taiwan split at the end of a civil war in 1949 and China still claims Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification.


    It has threatened to invade Taiwan if it declares independence.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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