China begins landmark talks with Taiwan

June 12th, 2008 - 1:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, June 12 (Xinhua) China and Taiwan began Thursday their first formal talks in nearly a decade, raising hopes that it will pave the way for cross-Strait rapprochement after six decades of impasse. “Since March this year, positive changes have taken place in cross-Strait relations,” Chen Yunlin, chairman of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), said at the start of the talks with Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF)chairman Chiang Pin-kun, who is heading the Taiwanese delegation.

“As wished by people on the two sides, the talks resumed today after nearly 10 years’ suspension,” Chen said and urged that the contributions of previous negotiators be remembered.

“At this important historical moment, we must remember the late ARATS chairman Wang Daohan and SEF chairman Koo Chen-fu when we shake hands,” he said.

“Though they have passed away, their contributions to the improvement in cross-Strait relations are engraved on our minds,” he said.

“We will carry on their unfinished tasks. We feel the great responsibility of this glorious mission and we must spare no effort in realizing the aspirations of people on the two sides,” he noted.

ARATS and SEF are authorized non-governmental organizations engaged in talks on issues related to exchanges across the Taiwan Strait.

ARATS, established in December 1991, aimed at promoting cross-Strait exchanges, developing cross-Strait relations and realizing a peaceful reunification of Taiwan with the mainland.

The SEF, which was established in Taipei November 1990, was authorized by the Mainland Affairs Council under the “Executive Yuan” of Taiwan to deal with cross-Strait affairs deemed “inconvenient” for the Taiwan authority to handle.

Chen expressed the hope that ARATS and SEF could reach consensus and sign an agreement as soon as possible during the talks.

“Many problems in economic, cultural and social fields need to be addressed after a long time was idled away,” he said.

“We sincerely hope we can seize this opportunity to promptly and actively exchange views so as to outline practical plans based on the expectations and benefits of the people on the two sides,” he said.

In 1992, the two organizations held negotiations in Hong Kong on how to state “adherence to the one-China policy” and reached the “1992 Consensus”.

In 1993, a meeting between ARATS chairman Wang Daohan and SEF chairman Koo Chen-fu in Singapore, their first public meeting, established an institutionalized negotiation mechanism and marked an important step forward in cross-Strait relations.

During the meeting, four agreements were signed to promote trade and people-to-people exchanges.

After the meeting, more than 20 consultations at different levels were held.

Talks between the two sides were suspended in 1999 after the then Taiwan leader Li Teng-hui proposed his “special state-to-state” model for cross-Strait relations.

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