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China Ready to Discuss Lifting Taiwain Trade Ban - 2002-05-29

China says it is ready to let private mainland groups talk with Taiwanese groups about ending a five-decade ban on direct trade and shipping links across the Taiwan Strait. The announcement brings China and Taiwan one step closer to opening direct links.

For the first time in years, Beijing and Taipei appear to be moving toward a breakthrough in establishing direct trade, transport and postal links.

Taiwan has banned direct links with the mainland since 1949, when Nationalists fled China after their defeat by Communist troops. In a major policy shift, Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian recently offered to let private groups talk with the mainland about ending the ban.

China responded to Mr. Chen's overture last week by inviting two Taiwanese tycoons to the mainland for unofficial talks. Taipei objected to those choices because of their massive investments in China.

On Wednesday, China's office in charge of cross-strait relations asked Taipei to propose a new team for talks.

Zhang Mingqing, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing says that "as soon as the Taiwanese government authorizes a group, the mainland is ready to start negotiations."

Mr. Zhang says business people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are increasingly impatient with the ban on direct links. He says the ban causes needless inconvenience and expense for Taiwanese and mainlanders alike. He calls on Taipei to nominate new people to hold talks as soon as possible.

Despite the apparent movement on economic ties, China and Taiwan appear no closer to ending their political stalemate.

Mr. Zhang says "Beijing opposes talks with Taiwanese government officials because Taipei has not recognized the one China principle. That principle states that Taiwan and China are part of the same country."

Mr. Zhang complains that Chen Shui-bian has been in office for two years, but still refuses to curb pro-independence activities on the island.

China has in the past threatened to attack Taiwan if it declares independence or drags its feet on reunification.