Taiwan's opposition party is mocking the arrival of two giant pandas from China, saying Beijing is using the animals to mask its true intentions for the self-ruled island.

Lawmakers with the Democratic Progressive Party dressed up as pandas Wednesday to symbolize their belief that China is slowly encroaching on Taiwan's sovereignty. The party is calling for the island to declare independence from the mainland.

"Tuan Tuan" and "Yuan Yuan" arrived in Taipei Tuesday after a three-hour flight from the southern Chinese city of Chengdu. Combined, the pandas' names mean "reunion" in Chinese.

China first offered the pandas in 2006, but they were rejected by then-President and Democratic Progressive Party leader Chen Shui-bian. But his successor, Ma Ying-jeou, accepted the pandas as part of his overall efforts to improve relations with China.

China and Taiwan recently resumed direct air, sea and postal links after nearly six decades. The two sides split after Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist army fled to Taiwan after losing a civil war to the communists in 1949.

Beijing still claims the island as part of its territory, and has threatened to invade if it formally declares independence.

But during a military exercise in southern Taiwan Wednesday, Mr. Ma said the island is determined to defend itself, despite the improved cross-Strait relations. He said Taiwan will not negotiate with China from a position of fear.

China has sent pandas to many foreign countries as a sign of friendly relations, including the United States. 

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.