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Taiwan and China begin historic talks

©

Latest update : 2008-06-12

A formal meeting between Taiwanese and Chinese delegations took place on Thursday. Focused on the establishment of direct flights between the two countries, the talks are widely regarded as warming relations between the former rivals.

China and Taiwan began their first formal talks in a decade here Thursday, according to an AFP photographer, the latest step in a dramatic rapprochement between the long-time rivals.
  
Delegations from semi-official bodies belonging to the two sides began their dialogue shortly after 9:00 am (0100 GMT) at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, which often serves as a venue for high-level diplomacy.
  
The delegation chiefs shook hands for a big group of photographers before the press were ushered out of the room and the talks began.
  
The talks were expected to focus on establishing regular direct flights between China and Taiwan for the first time since the two sides split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.
  
Allowing more mainland Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan would also be on the agenda, both sides said previously.
  
The talks were held only between semi-official bodies because China and Taiwan have no formal government relations.
  
However holding the talks has been seen as another important step in a tentative yet significant warming of relations between the two sides that began with the election of Ma Ying-jeou as president of Taiwan in March.
  
Ma led his Kuomintang party back to power on a platform of building closer ties with China, and not pushing for independence.
  
This was in stark contrast to his predecessor, Chen Shui-bian, whose pro-independence stance during his eight years as president deeply angered China.
  
China regards Taiwan as a renegade province that must eventually come back into its fold. During Chen's reign, China ramped up threats of using military force to return Taiwan to the mainland.
  
The head of Taiwan's delegation to this week's talks, Chiang Pin-kun, is expected to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao on Friday.
  
Both sides have flagged that agreement on the direct flights and extra tourist issues will be formally reached on Friday.

Date created : 2008-06-12

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