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China Renews Offer for Talks with Taiwan Government


James Soong

President Hu Jintao has renewed China's offer to negotiate with rival Taiwan. The Chinese leader met with the visiting head of a Taiwanese opposition party, James Soong.

James Soong is the second Taiwanese opposition leader to meet with President Hu Jintao in a month.

The Communist leadership on the mainland has stepped up contacts with the Taiwanese opposition in an effort that analysts say is meant to undermine President Chen Shui-bian and his party, which advocates Taiwan independence.

Mr. Soong, whose People First Party favors keeping the status quo and expanding economic ties with the mainland, spoke to reporters after meeting with President Hu. He said the two agreed to work to end hostility between the Communist mainland and the democratic island, but he said peace depends on the actions of his government.

"As long as Taiwan authorities do not pursue Taiwan independence, a military conflict across the Taiwan Strait can be effectively avoided," said James Soong.

Mr. Hu, however, said his offer to open dialogue that has been cut off for years is contingent on whether the Taiwanese government will accept Beijing's position that Taiwan is a part of China.

While President Chen has taken conciliatory measures in the face of pressure by those on the island who do not want to confront China, he has refused to accept China's conditions.

Tensions rose in March when China passed an anti-secession law authorizing the use of force if the island - self-ruled since 1949 - moves toward formal independence.

The United States has called for both sides to avoid unilateral actions to change the status quo and raise tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

Washington has urged the Communist leadership to reach out to Mr. Chen, saying a long-term solution to the Taiwan issue can only be found if Beijing negotiates directly with the elected government of Taiwan.