Talks signal China-Taiwan thaw

First discussions in nine years come after election of Taiwan's new president.

    Ma said he was "very hopeful" about the talks [EPA]

    A 19-member Taiwanese delegation led by Chiang Pin-kun, the island's chief negotiator, will be in Beijing for the landmark talks.


    The four-day discussions could help calm the angry rhetoric and military tensions that have made the Taiwan Strait one of the world's most volatile regions.


    China regards self-ruled Taiwan as a renegade province and has repeatedly threatened to use force to stop any formal move towards independence.


    Economic boost


    The talks are also expected to give Taiwan's economy a much-needed boost.

    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"

    China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation will discuss the establishment of permanent travel between China and Taiwan and to allow more mainland Chinese to visit the island. 

    Taiwan banned direct trade and transport exchanges with China after the two sides split at the end of a civil war in 1949, and has since severely restricted visits to the island.

    The two countries first held direct talks in Singapore in 1993 but the Chinese side suspended the process two years later to protest against a visit to the US by Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan's then president.


    Late last month Chinese and Taiwan ruling party leaders agreed to resume talks after they met in Beijing.


    That meeting was the highest-level contact between the two sides since 1949.


    No political issues


    Both sides have made it clear that more difficult topics such as political issues and China's military spending would be kept off the negotiating table for now as they seek to build greater trust and understanding.


    Li Peng, deputy director of the Taiwan Research Institute at China's Xiamen University, said the "conditions for talks on political issues are not ready yet".


    "The upcoming talks will follow the principle of easy tasks first, difficult tasks later, so that means economic issues first, political issues later."


    George Tsai, a political science professor at Chinese Culture University in Taipei, described the upcoming talks as "very symbolic".


    "They signal there is an amicable atmosphere. It is quite positive," he said.
    "But we should be realistic. We should not have any illusions [about the difficulties ahead]."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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