Taiwan appoints envoy to China

TAIPEI: Taiwan said Saturday it has appointed its first representative to China to promote tourism in another sign of improving ties between the formal rivals.

Yang Ruey-tzhong, a cabinet official and tourism expert, will head Taiwan's tourism representative office in Beijing, the Tourism Bureau said in a statement.

The swap of quasi-official offices, the first since Taiwan and China split in 1949, will take place before the Lunar New Year early next year, the local United Daily News reported without citing sources.

Fan Guishan, vice secretary-general of Cross-Strait Tourism Exchange Association, reportedly will be China's first representative stationed in Taipei.

More than half a million Chinese nationals have visited Taiwan since July 2008, when President Ma Ying-jeou's Beijing-friendly government trebled the daily quota on Chinese visitors to 3,000.

Ties between Taiwan and China have improved dramatically since Ma took office last year, although Beijing still claims the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.