Taiwan-China meet started to 'thaw the ice': president-elect
Taipei (AFP) April 14, 2008
Weekend talks between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Taiwan's vice president-elect have started to "thaw the ice" in ties between the rivals, the island's incoming president Ma Ying-jeou said Monday.
The landmark meeting on Saturday between Hu and Taiwan's Vincent Siew on the sidelines of a regional forum in Hainan, southern China, "has started to thaw the ice across the strait," Ma told reporters.
Ma, who takes office on May 20, said he was encouraged by the Hu-Siew talks, which were the highest-level contact between the two sides since they split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.
"We'll push for the reopening of cross-strait negotiations after May 20," said Ma, of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) party.
"Thanks to the Boao meeting, some of the barriers for the resumption of talks have been removed," he said.
"The mainland authorities displayed goodwill at the forum," he said, in what observers here believe is a veiled reference to an agreement reached ahead of the forum not to discuss the longstanding political dispute between the rivals.
China regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, as part of its "one-China" principle. Ma has said he would respect the concept, but that it remains open to interpretation.
Ma, who won the March presidential election in a landslide, campaigned on a pledge to boost Taiwan's sluggish economy.
As part of that pledge, he vowed to improve relations with China, increase trade, tourism and transport links, and work on a peace treaty to end hostilities.
He will succeed outgoing President Chen Shui-bian, whose pro-independence rhetoric sent cross-strait ties plummeting to new lows during his eight years in office.
The incoming president said Hu and Siew had exchanged views on cross-strait economic relations in a "natural, friendly and constructive atmosphere."
Siew said the talks had "helped lay a foundation of mutual trust."
Ma also said that Beijing had "responded positively" to Taiwan's proposals on weekend charter flights and a further opening-up of the island to mainland tourists.
"That would make it easier in carrying out our policies after we take office," he said, adding that civilian bodies representing both sides had nearly completed technical talks on the two issues over the past few years.
Taiwan has banned direct trade and transport exchanges with the mainland since 1949, and visits to the island by mainland tourists are severely restricted.
Ma said he would name KMT vice chairman Chiang Pin-kung as Taiwan's chief negotiator in dealing with China.
Chiang will head the semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), which is in charge of civilian exchanges between the island and the mainland.
"SEF will be responsible for handling cross-strait relations, with the authorisation of the Mainland Affairs Council," Ma said, referring to Taiwan's top China policy decision-making body.
Beijing unilaterally called off rapprochement talks in 1995 to protest the controversial US visit by the island's then president Lee Teng-hui, claiming it was part of his efforts to promote independence.
Siew -- who said both sides had recognised the meeting had offered a "rare opportunity" for an improvement in ties -- nevertheless admitted "no timetable" had been set for the normalisation of trade and economic ties with China.
He said he had raised with Hu what he hoped could be a guideline for future ties: "Face reality, create a new future, set aside dispute and pursue a win-win situation."
But both Ma and Siew cautioned that a breakthrough was not around the corner.
"As cross-strait ties did not become frosty overnight, and the icy mountain is big, it may take a long time to melt the ice," Ma said.
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Taipei (AFP) April 10, 2008
Taiwan's vice president-elect flies to China on Friday for a forum that may include talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, in what would be the highest-level contact ever between Beijing and Taipei.
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