Diplomat named to head Taiwan office

By Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-06-04 07:29

The executive vice-foreign minister and former ambassador to Japan will now head the mainland's top government body on cross-Taiwan Straits policy.

Wang Yi, 55, replaces Chen Yunlin, 66, as minister of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, the State Council, the country's cabinet, announced Tuesday.

Experts see the move as a sign of Beijing's sincerity to establish stronger ties with Taiwan.

Wang will head the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China's (CPC) Central Committee too.

Chen has been appointed president of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), which serves as a semi-official negotiating body with Taiwan in the absence of official links.

A Beijing native, Wang has served the Foreign Ministry since 1982, assuming vital posts such as the director of the Asian affairs department, ambassador to Japan, assistant foreign minister and vice-foreign minister.

Wang delivered a keynote speech at Tuesday's executive meeting of the ARATS, which was set up in 1991.

"I feel a great sense of responsibility in assuming the post," Wang said, and vowed to work hard to promote peaceful cross-Straits relations.

He encouraged the ARATS to shoulder the important task of consulting Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and jointly try to address issues that concern people across the Straits the most.

Experts on Taiwan studies have hailed Wang's appointment, saying it shows "the utmost sincerity of the mainland" toward the island.

"It shows the mainland attaches great importance to the new task of approaching Taiwan in a new era (of warmer relations)," said Wu Nengyuan, director of the Institute of Modern Taiwan Studies at Fujian Academy of Social Sciences.

Wang's rich diplomatic experience will help resolve the international issues involved in cross-Straits relations, Wu said.

"He will help establish better coordination between the Foreign Ministry and the Taiwan Affairs Office and better handle the one-China policy while considering proper international role for the island."

Ideal person

Chen Yunlin is the ideal person to head ARATS, which is scheduled to resume talks with SEF in the middle of this month, Wu said.

Chen's work as head of the Taiwan Work Office since 1997 has been highly appreciated by all, especially Taiwan residents.

A native of Liaoning province, Chen coordinated the path-breaking visits of former KMT chairman Lien Chan and People First Party chairman James Soong in 2005.

The two visits helped ease cross-Straits tension created by the secessionist activities of the then ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Cross-Straits talks began in 1992 but broke off in 1999 when former Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui redefined the two sides' ties as "special state-to-state relationship".

Cross-Straits relations, strained for eight years because of the ruling DPP's pro-independence activities, have been warming up after KMT's Ma Ying-jeou was elected the island's leader in March. Ma favors better economic ties with the mainland.

"The ARATS is ready to receive SEF chairman Chiang Pin-kun on the mainland, Chen told the ARATS executive meeting.

"It is also prepared to hold the first meeting after the two organizations resume dialogue," he added.

The ARATS and the SEF have exchanged correspondence, stressing the importance of resuming dialogue on the basis of the "1992 Consensus" as soon as possible, Chen said.

"The ARATS will plan issues in consultation with the SEF. It will try to settle the issue of a pair of giant pandas the mainland has decided to gift Taiwan," Chen said.

The ARATS secretary general Li Yafei said this is a "historical opportunity" for cross-Straits relations to move forward. "(The two sides will) set aside problems that can't be solved in the short-term and first solve those that can be," he said.

"Then (we can) look for solutions to problems left over from history and any new problems that might arise."

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