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Taiwan President Wants to Send Delegation to China in August - 2002-05-09

Taiwan's president is calling for improved relations between Taipei and Beijing, and wants to send a delegation to the Chinese capital in August. But, Beijing will likely find little in the president's offer that addresses its demands for resuming the cross-strait dialogue.

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian said he wants to send a delegation of officials from his political party to China after August 1 to further mutual understanding.

Mr. Chen made the comments during a visit to the Taiwan-controlled island of Quemoy. It was the scene of fierce shelling by the Chinese Communists in 1958. Quemoy, which lies just off China's coast, is a natural stepping-stone for any military movement across the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan split politically from China in 1949, and has a democratically elected, capitalist government. Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan, and has indicated it would retake the island by force if necessary.

Relations between Taiwan and China have been frosty since Mr. Chen became president two years ago. Beijing demands that Taipei accept its "one China" policy before formal contacts can resume.

Although President Chen has not openly advocated independence for Taiwan since taking office, some members of his party and other political allies express open sympathy for independence.

Beijing is not likely to view the timing of President Chen's offer to send the delegation some time after August 1st as accidental. The president assumes the chairmanship of his Democratic Progressive Party on that date. Once he becomes chairman, Beijing is likely to link him more closely to the party's pro-independence stance.

President Chen has been keen to counter China's reluctance to meet with delegates from his party. His latest olive branch, offered 10 days before the second anniversary of his presidency, signals a party-to-party approach that, so far, Beijing has been unwilling to take up.