Beijing steps up drive for reunification
Beijing has intensified its reunification drive by inviting a senior Taiwanese negotiator to visit the mainland early next month.
This is regarded as the Chinese leadership's first Taiwan-related initiative since last week's Sino-American summit.
Xinhua said last night that the semi-official Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) had invited the vice-chairman of Taipei's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), Chiao Jen-ho , to a seminar on 'cross-century economic relations' in Xiamen.
Xinhua said ARATS had told the SEF yesterday it was willing to 'push forward mutual visits'.
The Chinese side added it hoped Mr Chiao would lead a delegation of 12 senior SEF staff and advisers to visit Xiamen, Shanghai and Beijing.
Mr Chiao, also the foundation's secretary-general, is the island's deputy chief negotiator and oversees semi-official bilateral technical talks.
If he were to go, Mr Chiao would be the most senior official to visit China since Beijing suspended talks between the two semi-official groups after President Lee Teng-hui's visit to the United States in mid-1995.
Taiwan saw the invitation as a good sign.
'The Straits Exchange Foundation believes this has positive implications,' the SEF said in a statement.
The foundation would 'offer a speedy reply after reporting the invitation to responsible authorities', it said.
The SEF statement said ARATS had also expressed an interest in forming a delegation to visit Taiwan soon. The delegation would apparently be headed by Mr Chiao's ARATS counterpart, Tang Shubei , SEF officials said.
Analysts said the foundation's participation in the Xiamen conference could pave the way for the resumption of formal talks.