Chen Yunlin (front R), president of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, speaks at a welcome ceremony in Taipei after his arrival for the historic visit November 3, 2008. [Xinhua]
TAIPEI -- Beijing's top envoy on Taiwan affairs arrived here Monday for historic talks to push for stronger ties across the Straits.
Chen Yunlin, president of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), is the most senior mainland envoy to visit the mainland since 1949.
Heading a 60-strong delegation, Chen will stay until Friday for talks starting on Tuesday morning with his Taiwan counterpart Chiang Pin-kung, chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF).
It will be the first time for ARATS and SEF leaders to meet in Taiwan since the two semi-official negotiation bodies started talks in 1993.
Chen called his meeting with Chiang "a milestone in establishing institutionalized cross-Straits talks" and "an important step" in bilateral ties.
"Such a step is hard-won by going through various difficulties and accumulating the joint efforts of compatriots across the Straits," he said in a written speech at Taoyuan International Airport.
Wang Yi, minister of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said Chen's visit to Taiwan "is of historical significance."
"The hard ice between the two sides has already been shattered, and the road has already opened," said Wang at Chen's official send-off in Beijing.
"We should cherish, maintain and develop the hard-earned situation," Wang added.