CHINA pushed for direct trade and transport links with Taiwan in the historic Summit Across the Strait in Singapore yesterday - but Taipei rejected any talks on the politically-sensitive issue. In an eight-point statement on China's position for the two-day summit, Beijing's chief negotiator, Mr Wang Daohan, took the offensive by arguing that direct links in air and sea services, as well as communication, should be on the agenda in future cross-strait talks. His opposite number, Mr Koo Chen-fu, did not respond. Mr Koo's deputy, Mr Cheyne Chiu, said later that political issues - including reunification - would not be discussed. Four rounds of hearty handshaking between Mr Wang, the chairman of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), and Mr Koo, the head of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), kicked off the highest level of contact in 44 years. The delegations were confronted on their first day by a feeble protest from the Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The small group unfurled a banner outside the Neptune Orient Line Building, the venue for the talks, declaring that they support ''one China and one Taiwan''. The 30-minute protest led by senior DPP politician Mr Shih Ming-teh ended when Singapore police confiscated the banner. The mainland and Taiwan teams of nine were all smiles as they took their seats and posed for more than 200 journalists during a brief photo-call session. The ''cordial and friendly'' atmosphere soon returned to business as Mr Wang spent 80 minutes detailing Beijing's stance. Mr Koo responded only briefly. According to the schedule, the Taiwan leader will give his statement today before the signing of three memoranda on the verification of documents, compensation for lost mail and the establishment of systematic communication channels. A vice-chairman of ARATS, Mr Tang Shubei, said Mr Wang first extended ''personal regards'' from the Communist Party General Secretary, Mr Jiang Zemin, and the Prime Minister, Mr Li Peng, to Taiwan's President, Mr Lee Teng-hui, and Prime Minister Mr Lien Chen, as well as Mr Lian's predecessor, General Hau Pei-tsun. Mr Wang, a former Shanghai mayor, has had close ties with Mr Jiang. Mr Koo, who was a senior elder of the Kuomintang and close associate of President Mr Lee, did not respond and just ''wrote some notes'', Mr Tang said. Citing the enormous potential for greater economic co-operation across the strait, Mr Wang maintained that the direct exchange of mail, trade and air and shipping services should be put on the agenda. With the ever-expanding economic and trade relations across the strait, the ''three direct exchanges'' have become imperative, he said. Mr Wang indicated that relations between both sides of the Taiwan Strait should focus on economic exchanges and co-operation, adding that ''political differences should not impede economic co-operation''. He admitted that the building of mutual trust would take some time, but said both sides could start talks on direct shipping of cargo in designated areas. ''China is a big market . . . if Taiwan businessmen do not come, they would be overtaken by investors from western Europe, North America, East Asia and Southeast Asia in the mainland market,'' Mr Tang quoted Mr Wang as saying. According to Mr Wang, Beijing was willing to hold discussions with Taiwan on co-operation in the development of science and technology, exploration of energy and raw resources and exchanges over cultural, media and youth activities as well as labour exports. Mr Cheyne Chiu, secretary general of the SEF, said in the afternoon that Mr Wang's suggestion on direct transport and communication links had clearly exceeded the scope of the original agenda. ''The political overture is very obvious in his remarks,'' he said. ''But direct links with the mainland is not the policy of our Government at the present stage. ''We have made clear to them in our earlier discussions that direct links and labour co-operation are issues where discussions were not suitable at the present moment.'' Mr Chiu said they expected that the meeting would concentrate on operational matters between the SEF and ARATS, repatriation of illegal immigrants, marine crimes, resolution of economic disputes, social exchanges, taxation and remittance of profits by Taiwanese businessmen from the mainland to Taiwan. But he said he was optimistic that the meeting would be a ''success'' and claimed that the two sides should be able to reach ''broad concensus'' on major issues at the conclusion of the meeting. Mr Tang stressed that Beijing had no intention to ''politicise'' the talks and claimed that they believed the discussions were crucial in promoting economic and trade exchanges between the two sides. ''We don't accept that direct transport and communication links [between the mainland and Taiwan] is a political issue,'' said Mr Tang. ''This is an administrative and economic subject.'' Speaking after the talks, Mr Koo declined to comment on whether the first day of talks were satisfactory, adding each side was stating their position.