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Taiwanese Negotiators Arrive in China for Historic Talks


Negotiators from Taiwan are in Beijing, for talks with officials in arch-rival China on increasing the number of mainland Chinese tourists who visit the island. As Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing, this is the first formal discussions the two sides have had in nine years.

The Chinese government considers Taiwan a renegade province and has vowed to use force, if necessary, to prevent the island from declaring independence.

This is the tension that has overshadowed relations for much of the last decade.

But on Wednesday, there were few obvious signs of hostility as the leader of the Taiwanese delegation, Chiang Pin-Kung, addressed reporters at the airport, before he left Taipei for Beijing.

Chiang says he is calling his trip a mission of mutual trust and negotiation. He says the goal he is pursuing is to get both sides to co-exist peacefully.

He made no statement upon arriving in Beijing.

The Nationalist government fled to Taiwan in 1949, after losing a civil war to the Chinese Communists. China now has hundreds of missiles pointed at the island, which lies across the 160-kilometer-wide Taiwan Strait.

China and Taiwan last held formal talks in 1999. But China left in anger, because of steps by taken by Taiwan that Beijing perceived as pro-independence.

Taiwanese negotiator Chiang heads the Straits Exchange Foundation, a semi-official body set up to talk to China in the absence of formal ties. His 19-member team includes senior officials who are the highest-ranking Taiwanese officials ever to participate in bilateral talks.

Chiang and his Chinese counterpart, Chen Yunlin, will meet at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. The two sides are scheduled to sign an agreement Friday that covers two specific issues - regular, direct flights between the two sides and allowing more Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan.

The Taiwanese delegation is set to leave Saturday.