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China, Taiwan to Hold Regular Talks


China and Taiwan will hold regular talks, next month, to hammer out the first steps in opening regular direct flights between the two countries. Relations have improved significantly since last week's inauguration of a Taiwanese president from the Nationalist KMT Party. Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.

The rapprochement began with a letter from the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, sent to Taiwan's Strait Exchange Foundation.

The half-page invitation asked for talks, to be held in Beijing next month. It said the specific agenda will include discussion on regular direct flights between the mainland and Taiwan, as well as mainland tourists traveling to the island.

The Taiwan organization accepted.

The new development comes as the chairman of Taiwan's KMT party, Wu Po-hsiung, continues a week-long, high-profile tour of China.

Wu's meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Wednesday, was broadcast live on China Central Television.

The Chinese leader says Wu's visit represents a new circumstance. He also calls it a "big event" in the relations between the two parties - the Chinese Communist Party on the mainland and the KMT Party on the island - as well as for both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

The KMT fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to the Chinese Communists.

Beijing considers the separately-governed island part of Chinese territory and has vowed to use force, if necessary, to prevent it from becoming independent.

There is no timetable for resuming political talks, which have been frozen since 1999. But the two sides have moved closer since the election of the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou as Taiwan president in March.

Ma's predecessor, the Democratic Progressive Party's Chen Shui-bian, was seen as more independence-minded.

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