First Straits talks in 9 years to boost ties

By Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-06-10 07:05

Negotiators from both sides of the Taiwan Straits will hold talks from Wednesday, the first in more than nine years, rekindling hopes of closer ties.

A 19-member delegation from Taiwan, led by the island's chief mainland negotiator Chiang Pin-kun, is scheduled to arrive in Beijing for the landmark talks.

The meeting will focus on cross-Straits chartered flights over weekends that can start as early as July and increasing the number of mainland travelers to the island.

The negotiation between the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) is scheduled to continue till Saturday.

It will be the first meeting between the two sides after the warming of relations and the swearing in of Ma Ying-jeou, who favors closer economic ties with the mainland, as the island's leader last month.

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".

All efforts to resume the talks during the Democratic Progressive Party's eight-year rule failed because of the island authorities' secessionist activities.

The Taiwan delegation will be led by SEF chairman Chiang, with two "vice-ministers" of the island's "cabinet" acting as consultants on the flights and tourism issues.

The two "vice-ministers" are Fu Don-cheng of the "mainland affairs council" and Oliver Yu of the "ministry of transportation and communications", SEF secretary-general Kao Koong-lian said on Sunday.

This is the first time Taiwan is sending such senior level officials for cross-Straits talks, he said, and hoped they would proceed smoothly.

"We expect to sign an agreement on June 13," Kao was quoted by local media as saying yesterday.

Sun Yun, head of the Taiwan Research Institute, affiliated to Xiamen University, said that since the two sides have agreed to lay aside disputes, it is likely that the talks will focus on economic issues and urgent mutual problems.

"Also, since no talks have been held for quite a long time, negotiations will restart with issues the two sides have already agreed upon," Sun said.

The mainland delegation is headed by the newly chosen ARATS president, Chen Yunlin, who is the former minister of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office. And it will include tourism and civil aviation officials, according to the list of names issued by the ARATS yesterday.

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