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Taiwan Opposition Leader Urges China to Change Strategy

James Soong, delivers speech on his arrival at Xian airport
Taiwanese opposition leader James Soong, on a visit to China, has urged the Beijing government to change its approach to Taiwan, and stop taking measures that deepen the divide between the two rivals.

The head of Taiwan's opposition People First Party, James Soong, told students at Beijing's Tsinghua University that peace is the aspiration of people both in Taiwan and on mainland China.

He said peace is the only rational choice, if the two economies are going to grow and prosper together. Cross-strait trade has been rising sharply, reaching $70 billion last year.

But Mr. Soong suggested growth is being threatened by rising tensions over China's threats to attack the island, if its government formally declares independence.

He reaffirmed his personal belief that independence would be a "dead end" for the island. At the same time, he indicated Beijing should change its bellicose approach.

Mr. Soong said the key to resolving the Taiwan issue is not through weapons or slogans, but by deepening ties. He made a reference to ancient emperors, who failed to contain flood waters when they built walls around rivers, instead of dredging deeper channels.

"Today's reality is that we exist," said James Soong. "I believe China would make a wise choice between containment and dredging."

Tensions rose in March, when Beijing enacted an anti-secession law giving itself license to use force against Taiwan, if it moves toward independence. China also keeps hundreds of missiles pointed at the island it claims as part of its territory.

James Soong is the second Taiwanese opposition leader to come to China recently, as Beijing seeks to strengthen ties with opponents of Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-bian. Beijing last month hosted Lien Chan, the head of Taiwan's Nationalist party, the Kuomintang.

Critics in Taiwan have labeled the Soong and Lien visits as attempts by Beijing to undermine President Chen, whose pro-independence convictions have angered mainland authorities.

The United States says it hopes the contacts will mark the start of more communication across the Taiwan Strait. But Washington says a long-term solution can only be found if Beijing eventually negotiates with the island's elected leadership.