BEIJING yesterday made strong overtures to Taipei to open negotiations on reunification with the mainland. Wang Daohan, Beijing's top negotiator on Taiwan affairs, said the mainland was willing to 'work together to build a new China' as long as Taipei abided by the 'one-China principle'. The chairman of the semi-official Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), Mr Wang said there was 'much room' for negotiations and that Beijing was willing to open discussions with Taipei on 'any matter'. He reassured Taiwan that Beijing would not harm her interests and said any parties were welcome to take part in negotiations. 'We don't just pin our hopes on the authorities, we also welcome any people and political parties to send their representatives to exchange opinions.' He also hinted that progress towards reunification could see generous concessions for businessmen of the breakaway island. 'We are all Chinese, so why can't we offer them more benefits,' he said during a meeting with Shanghai delegates at the 15th Communist Party Congress. But Mr Wang also repeated China's long-standing threat to invade if Taiwan declared independence. 'We should have the patience, determination and confidence to pursue peaceful reunification,' he said. 'China wants to use peaceful means to reunify the whole country. There is only one exception, and that is that Taiwan cannot seek independence.' President Jiang Zemin, speaking at Friday's opening of the Party Congress, appealed for talks to resume between the two sides, although he stressed discussions could only be held 'on the premise that there is one China'. Beijing unilaterally suspended quasi-official talks between the two in 1995 to vent its anger over President Lee Teng-hui's landmark visit to the United States. Although Taiwan dismissed Mr Jiang's offer as 'nothing new', Mr Wang's high-profile overtures yesterday indicate that Beijing is pulling out all stops to lure Taiwan back to the mainland fold. He is widely regarded as an influential adviser to Mr Jiang. His 1993 Singapore summit with Taiwanese counterpart Koo Chen-fu ushered in a period of rapid Taiwanese investment on the mainland. Mr Wang also commented on the missile tests Beijing staged in March last year to try to intimidate the island in the run-up to its first direct presidential polls. 'The target of the missile tests wasn't the Taiwanese people. It was a warning to those in Taiwan who were stirring up independence,' he said, adding they had achieved their goal of discouraging separatism. 'Since then, the splittist elements on Taiwan have become divided,' he said. Responding to Beijing's overtures, President Lee reiterated that Taiwan was a sovereign state. Mr Lee, who is on a state visit to El Salvador, said Beijing must acknowledge the 'undeniable fact' that the two sides have been ruled by separate governments since 1949. 'The Republic of China is an independent and sovereign country . . . I'm afraid talks to end hostility will never be held if Beijing continued to deny the fact,' he said.