Ma hails cross-strait talks and urges more dialogue
Lawrence Chung in Taipei
The resumption of cross-strait talks was history in the making, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday, calling for more dialogue to increase exchanges and improve relations between the island and Beijing.
'The two sides are making history through their talks,' said Mr Ma in a meeting with Chiang Pin-kung, the island's top negotiator with the mainland. Mr Ma congratulated him for resuming the dialogue after a decade of cross-strait impasse.
The talks between the government-funded Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and its mainland counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (Arats), represent the institutionalisation of the channel for negotiations between the two sides, he said.
Cross-strait ties were never cordial after the two sides split at the end of civil war in 1949. They soured further after Beijing suspended talks with Taipei in 1999 - due to the Taiwanese independence campaign promoted by then president Lee Teng-hui and his successor, Chen Shui-bian.
'Now that such a channel has become institutionalised, we can have different groups hold talks on different agendas in different places,' Mr Ma said. He hoped the SEF could work with the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) - the island's top mainland policy planning body - to generate more talks.
Mr Chiang, chairman of the SEF, told Mr Ma the next round of talks being planned would address charter cargo flights, direct shipping, expansion of the mini links between Kinmen and Xiamen, joint efforts to fight cross-strait crime and preparations for earthquake relief. Mr Chiang led a 19-member delegation to Beijing on Wednesday and returned to the island yesterday.
On Friday he signed two agreements with the mainland on the operation of direct, cross-strait weekend charter flights and opening the island to mainland tourists.
MAC chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan hailed as 'opening a new page' the resumption of talks between the SEF and Arats when she went to the airport to greet Mr Chiang yesterday. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party snubbed the dialogue as a failure since Mr Chiang had not signed a deal on charter cargo flights.
Meanwhile, the mainland gave approval yesterday for 33 mainland travel agencies to begin a 10-day visit to the island today to survey tourist attractions before organising package tours to Taiwan.