Taiwan sends advance party to prepare for China talks

Taiwan on Monday sent a six-member delegation as an advance party to prepare for this week's resumption of talks with China after a 10-year break because of sour relations, reported dpa.

Chang Shu-ti - deputy secretary general of the Straits Exchange Foundation, who led the group to Beijing - is to meet officials from China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait to discuss the agenda for the talks and other details, he said.

"This is not only the big event of our two organizations but also the big event of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait," he said before his departure for Beijing. "For this, we must discuss the details of the upcoming talks in advance."

Taiwan's foundation and China's association were scheduled to reopen talks Wednesday through Saturday. Pacts on opening weekend charter flights and allowing mainland tourists to visit Taiwan were expected to be signed.

The two bodies were set up in 1991 to represent their respective governments in talks in the absence of formal relations.

Taiwan and China, split since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, held their first dialogue in Singapore in 1993.

Beijing halted the dialogue in 1998 over then-Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui's support of Taiwan's independence. Cross-strait ties remained frozen during the 2000-2008 tenure of his successor, Chen Shui-bian, whom China also blasted as a separatist.

Tensions began to thaw after Ma Ying-jeou from the pro-China Chinese Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), won the March 22 presidential election, pledging to seek peace with China and revive Taiwan's economy.

Ma promised not to seek independence during his term and said he hoped to open weekend charter flights and allow Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan. The flights are planned to eventually be expanded to daily charter flights and eventually to regular flights.

China reacted by inviting KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung to visit Beijing to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao. In the meeting on May 28, Hu gave the go-ahead for the Beijing-Taipei dialogue to resume. He also assured Wu that as long as Taiwan considers itself part of China, anything - including allowing Taiwan the "international space" it desires - can be discussed.

After economic issues, talks on other, more sensitive issues - such as pacts for peace and the protection of Taiwan's investors, China's removal of missiles aimed toward Taiwan and China allowing Taiwan to join international organizations - were expected to follow, according to Taipei and Beijing officials.

On Monday, Ma received Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung and other key officials, including the vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, the island's top China policy-planning body, who would take part in the landmark talks later this week.

He encouraged the foundation to increase mutual trust with its Chinese counterpart and pave the way for further dialogue, including the launch of daily charter flights and other issues, in the future.

Chiang is leading a 19-member delegation to Beijing Wednesday. More than 430 journalists, including 120 from Taiwan, are to cover the historic resumption of cross-strait dialogue, the foundation said.  

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