A top mainland official in charge of Taiwanese affairs has reportedly ruled out the island joining the World Health Organisation, prompting concern from Taipei, which had hoped for Beijing's blessing. In a meeting with Japanese legislators on Monday in Beijing, Wang Yi , director of the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) under the State Council, said the mainland would continue to object to the island's bid to join the global health body. 'The mainland would not accept Taiwan formally joining the WHO, but would try to establish a framework to allow Taiwan to share information with other countries through some sort of international network outside the WHO in the event of a bird flu outbreak,' he was reported by Kyodo news agency as saying. His remarks raised concern in Taiwan, especially since the two sides had resumed dialogue in a landmark meeting this month to improve ties and shelve political differences. The warming ties follow last month's inauguration of President Ma Ying-jeou, of the mainland-friendly Kuomintang, replacing Chen Shui-bian, whose pro-independence stance had provoked Beijing for eight years. The resumption of talks between Taipei's Straits Exchange Foundation and Beijing's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits was made possible when KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung visited the mainland late last month and met President Hu Jintao . During that historic meeting, Mr Wu relayed a message from Mr Ma seeking cross-strait rapprochement. Mr Hu said after the two sides had resumed dialogue that Taiwan's role in international activities could be discussed and priority would be given to the issue of the island's participation in the WHO. Taiwanese officials yesterday avoided direct comment on Mr Wang's remarks, possibly mindful that a harsh rebuttal might leave no room for manoeuvring between the two sides. 'We need to find out what exactly has been said before we can comment,' said Jonathan Liu Teh-hsuan, a vice-chairman of the island's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) policymaking body. He said that in a June 13 meeting in Beijing between Straits Exchange Foundation chairman Chiang Pin-kung and Mr Hu, Mr Chiang had raised the issue of Taiwan's desire to participate in world affairs more actively, and Mr Hu responded positively, saying as long as the two sides worked to create the conditions and came up with positions both sides could accept, negotiations on the issue could begin. But in a meeting with US visitors yesterday, MAC chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan called on the mainland to drop its policy of restraining Taiwan from joining the WHO and other international organisations, saying the two sides should build mutual trust and engage each other positively. In Beijing, TAO spokeswoman Fan Liqing stressed that the central government had acknowledged Taiwan's desire to participate in the WHO. She said the mainland believed the two sides would be able to find a solution. George Tsai Wei, political science professor at Chinese Culture University in Taipei, said Mr Wang's comments were not a surprise. 'So far, the two sides have yet to start talks on the issue, and it is still the policy of Beijing to refuse to allow Taiwan to join the WHO,' he said.