Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council yesterday expressed optimism that cross-strait talks could be resumed before Hong Kong's handover. The council was reacting to friendly signals from Beijing. China broke off talks last year in retaliation for President Lee Teng-hui's unprecedented private visit to the United States, which China called evidence of Mr Lee's alleged plot to seek independence. Kao Koong-lian , the council's vice-chairman, said yesterday: 'We have completed all the preparation work necessary to resume. As long as both sides can express a time and a place, we're willing to proceed.' President Jiang Zemin and Beijing's chief negotiator with Taiwan, Wang Daohan , both made public statements over the New Year holiday expressing hopes that dialogue could be renewed. Mr Wang had said he hoped Taiwan authorities would agree to start talks in preparation for negotiations aimed at ending hostilities. Yesterday, Mr Kao called Mr Wang's suggestions 'very meaningful' and hoped his words would soon be translated into action. Mr Kao also warned Beijing not to link Taiwan's recent decision to abolish its provincial government with accusations of seeking the island's independence.