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Taiwan Official Visits Sun Yat-sen's Tomb in China

Taiwan's top cross-strait official visited the burial ground of Sun Yat-sen Wednesday, the founder of modern China and a man who is respected in both Taipei and Beijing. During his visit, the Mainland Affairs Council chairman, Wang Yu-chi, used the opportunity to not only pay respects, but also make mention of Taiwan's democratic accomplishments.

Wang walked up hundreds of steps on a chilly Wednesday morning, to the very top of the Sun Yat-sen mausoleum to lay a wreath and bow in front of his tomb. Afterwards in brief remarks to reporters he spoke about Sun Yat-sen's founding of the Republic of China, Taiwan's official name.

"Our founding father Sun Yat-sen established the first democratic republic in Asia and the Republic of China is already 103 years old," he said. "In the past, we could only pay our respects to Sun Yat-sen in Taipei, but today I've been able to do this here as the head of the Mainland Affairs Council and because of that I feel very happy and deeply touched."

Wang also said he imagined that Sun Yat-sen would be pleased as well, as he looks down on what Taiwan has accomplished in establishing a democratic republic based on his vision.

Wang's visit was carried by state media in China, but Chinese media put the focus more squarely on his comments about Tuesday's historic talks in Nanjing.

He said the priority for the future is for the two sides to acknowledge each other and resolve problems with a pragmatic approach, so we can set-up a stable cross-strait relations in the future. He says this will be of benefit to the people across the Strait and make the Taiwan Strait a strait of peace and cooperation.

The burial ground for Sun Yat-sen in Nanjing is one of several sites in the city closely linked to the shared past of China's Communist Party and the party that is now in power in Taiwan, the Nationalists.

Not far away from Sun's burial site is the former Presidential Office of Chiang Kai-shek, which is now a museum of modern Chinese history. Chiang's Nationalists lost a civil war with Mao Zedong's Communists in the late 1940s and fled to Taiwan.

Political scientist Joseph Cheng said the choice of holding Taiwan and China's first talks in 65 years in Nanjing is full of symbolic meaning for both sides. He said it is also a good choice for Taipei instead of holding the meetings in Beijng.

"The nationalist government first established the capital in Nanjing, so this is much more acceptable from Taipei's point of view, and certainly one can refer to the fond memories of Dr. Sun Yat-sen in Nanjing. Being able to avoid [holding the meeting in] Beijing is a very, very small victory on the part of Taipei," stated Cheng.

During talks Tuesday, the two sides did not reach any formal agreements, but they did acknowledge the fact they could meet as equals was a step forward. Until now, only semi-official representatives from Taiwan and China have been allowed to meet. The two sides say now that they have established a means for more regular communications they can telephone one another at any time.

The two stressed, however, that the new government-to-government exchanges will not replace the semi-official organizations on both sides that have served as a bridge for more than two decades.

Wang has invited his Chinese counterpart, Zhang Zhijun, the head of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, to visit Taiwan in the near future. The date for that visit is still pending.

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