03/31/2005, 00.00
CHINA - TAIWAN
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Official Kuomintang delegation visits mainland China

For the first time since 1949 Taiwanese politicians meet mainland officials to discuss economic issues.

Nanjing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – An official delegation from the Kuomintang (KMT) or nationalist Party, Taiwan's main opposition party, travelled to mainland China to meet government and Communist Party officials.

This is the first time for Taiwanese political leaders to visit the mainland since Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist forces fled to the island in 1949 after losing the civil war.

The two delegations discussed a 10-point agenda covering, among other things, direct passenger flights, Taiwanese investments and co-operation in fisheries projects.

A senior Beijing official hailed the historic visit as "ushering in a new era of party-to-party dialogue across the Taiwan Strait".

The visit is however taking place at a time of heightened tensions between Taipei and Beijing. In mid-March China adopted an anti-secession law authorising the use of force against the island should it declare independence. This, in turn, led to mass rally in Taipei on March 26 of almost a million people opposed to the law.

The KMT did not join the rally and remains opposed to Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, who is thought to be close to Taiwan's pro-independence movement.

Many analysts view the KMT's Beijing visit as a way to politically weaken Chen by becoming mainland China's main interlocutor and advocate of closer economic ties.

Chiang Pinkung, the KMT's deputy president who headed the Taiwanese delegation, met today Chen Yunlin, director of the Communist Party's Central Office for Taiwan Affairs and the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office.

Their meeting ended with a joint statement that laid out the talks' key point: trade promotion.

Mr Chen (no relation to President Chen Shui-bian) and Mr Chiang called on people from both sides of the strait to grasp an "opportunity given by history" to realise the dreams of mutual prosperity, stability and development.

Before heading back from Beijing, Mr Chiang visited the tomb of KMT founder Sun Yat-sen in Nanjing, who died in 1925.

Upon exiting the mausoleum, Mr Chiang invoked Sun's three Principles of the People—nationalism, democracy and people's livelihood—as well as other revolutionary ideals as the guiding principles for peaceful cooperation.

In Taipei the Chen administration did state however that the "KMT delegation cannot sign any agreement on any issue because it does not represent the legitimate government of the Island".

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