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Another Taiwanese Opposition Leader Visits Mainland China

James Soong, delivers speech on his arrival at Xian airport in China, Thursday

Taiwanese politician James Soong arrived in mainland China, saying he wanted to bridge differences between Beijing and Taipei. Mr. Soong is the second Taiwan opposition leader to travel to the mainland in the past few days.

The head of Taiwan's opposition People First Party, James Soong, arrived in the western city of Xian, where he received a warm welcome by Communist Party officials. Speaking on the tarmac, Mr. Soon wasted no time in telling his Communist hosts that his party is committed to opposing independence for Taiwan.

Mr. Soong said his party is the only one on Taiwan that has always opposed independence and the existence of two Chinas, or one China and one Taiwan.

His words pleased the Chinese Communist leadership, which has been working to set up ties with those in Taiwan who oppose pro-independence President Chen-Shui-bian.

Analysts have said Beijing seems to be seeking to undermine Mr. Chen at a time when the island remains deeply divided between those who do not rule out eventual reunification, and those who want independence.

China claims Taiwan, but the island has been ruled separately since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 when the defeated Nationalists fled there to escape Communist rule.

Tensions rose following Beijing's recent passage of an anti-secession law that authorizes the mainland to resort to "non-peaceful means" in order to regain control of the island.

Mr. Soong's supporters - who include many business people - have been pushing for improved relations with Beijing, fearing that tensions could hurt the booming trade between the island and the mainland.

James Soong's nine-day visit comes days after the leader of the opposition Nationalist party, Lien Chan, came to China and met with President Hu Jintao. The two reached a series of symbolic agreements to improve relations.

Washington praised the exchanges between the Chinese government and the Taiwanese opposition, saying dialogue is the only way to resolve the cross-strait issue. But officials also expressed hope that Beijing will continue to find ways to reach out to President Chen and his government, saying any long-term solution can only be found if Beijing negotiates with the elected leadership of Taiwan.