Beijing urges Taipei to allow agency bureaus

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 February, 2010, 12:00am

Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office has urged Taipei to allow semi-official mainland agencies to set up permanent bureaus on the island to enhance cross-strait ties, just weeks after expressing its anger at US arms sales to Taiwan.

Office spokeswoman Fan Liqing said yesterday that two travel agencies under the top quasi-official bodies handling ties - Beijing's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (Arats) and the island's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) - were to be set up in Taipei and Beijing under 2006 deals. They also plan to let news agencies set up bureaus.

'It's necessary and important to set up permanent bureaus because we have had more cross-strait issues to deal with since the implementation of the 'three direct links',' Fan said in Beijing. 'The two travel bureau agencies ... also named 'mini-Arats and mini-SEF' will help the development of cross-strait tourism and other areas.'

The 'three direct links' - direct postal services, flights and trade - were established in December 2008.

Fan said both Arats and SEF had submitted applications to officials on the other side of the strait last year seeking permission to establish the bureaus.

'Opening dates for mini-Arats and mini-SEF are still being negotiated,' she said.

Fan also highlighted Beijing's strong disapproval of US arms sales to Taiwan, but said Beijing still regarded Taiwan as 'a family member'.

'Compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are linked by our blood,' she said. 'Only harmony will bring wealth. Deeper, peaceful cross-strait ties would further benefit Taiwan people and help them to gain confidence to face future challenges.'

Fan, a native of Nanan, Fujian , where people speak the same Minnanhua dialect as many Taiwanese, used the language to send a Lunar New Year greeting to the Taiwanese people. It was the first time a TAO spokesperson had spoken the Taiwanese dialect in 10 years of regular press conferences, Xinhua reported.

Beijing last week announced a halt to some scheduled military exchanges with the United States and threatened to impose sanctions on US firms participating in the arms sales to Taiwan.

Zhang Tongxin, honorary director of Renmin University's Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau Research Centre, said Beijing did not want rapidly improving cross-strait relations to be affected by the arms sales issue.

'We look at Taiwan as our brother. This is totally different from the Sino-US relationship,' Zhang said. 'Cross-strait ties are our domestic issue, which shouldn't be ruined or be sown with discord by outsiders.'

Liu Guoshen, the head of Xiamen University's Taiwan Research Institute, said Beijing realised warming cross-strait ties meant it was not a good time to get too angry.

'Beijing has never stopped trying to persuade the Taiwanese authorities not to buy arms,' he said. 'We also understand that the arms were demanded by Taiwan's defence department many years ago, representing pro-US sentiment on the island, not the majority of Taiwanese.'

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