Hu, Lien to strive to end hostilities

Associated Press

Beijing, April 29:

Highest-level meet between China and Taiwan since the ’49 split.

Taiwan’s opposition leader and Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed today to work together to try to end hostilities between Beijing and Taipei, a spokesman for the Taiwanese delegation said. Their joint statement calls on the Nationalist Party and China’s communists to “promote the reaching of an agreement to end the hostile situation and also to promote the establishment of a military mechanism based on mutual trust,” said spokesman Chang Jung-kung. Chang made the announcement following a meeting between Hu and Nationalist Party Chairman Lien Chan. The statement also says the two political parties will jointly promote Taiwan’s involvement in international bodies, said Chang. It wasn’t immediately clear whether

Beijing had agreed to allow Taiwan to take part in international groups as a sovereign government or would continue to demand it present itself as a territory of the communist mainland.

Beijing claims Taiwan as its territory and has tried to block its efforts to join bodies like the United Nations and the World Health Organisation. The meeting between Hu and Lien was the highest-level contact between the two sides since they split amid civil war in 1949. Lien’s visit comes as China tries to combat Taiwanese pro-independence activists by reaching out to parties such as Lien’s that favour uniting the two sides. Beijing has threatened to attack if Taiwan tries to make its independence permanent. Hu and Lien shook hands in a ceremony broadcast live on television in both China and Taiwan. “Your coming is a great thing,” Hu told Lien. Before the meeting, Lien urged the two sides to “build a bridge to unite our people”.

“This is something that our people will welcome because we want to avoid confrontation across the Taiwan Strait and our people would like to see dialogue and reconciliation and cooperation,” Lien said in his 40-minute speech.

“We can’t stay in the past forever,” he said.

Lien said recent Chinese reforms, including nonpartisan elections to village-level posts, are closing the political gap between the communist mainland and democratic Taiwan. “No matter the speed and scope of political reform on the mainland, there is still considerable room to develop,” he said. Lien says he hopes to ease tensions with Beijing, which enacted an anti-secession law in March authorising military action if Taiwan moves toward formal independence. Lien today appealed to both governments to “maintain the status quo” — a reference to the unspoken deal under which Beijing refrains from attacking so long as Taiwan doesn’t declare formal independence. The Lien-Hu meeting is the first between leaders of their parties since Nationalist dictator Chiang Kai-shek and communist guerrilla commander Mao Zedong held talks in 1945, an attempt to create a national unity government. They failed and after four years of war, the defeated Nationalists fled to Taiwan. More recently, the Nationalists and communists have found common cause in their opposition to Chen, whose party favours independence.