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China says Taiwan quake aid welcome

China said it is happy to accept earthquake aid from its sometimes bitter diplomatic rival Taiwan, after the self-ruled island complained its huge neighbour had refused to accept its donations.

world Updated: May 30, 2008 15:46 IST

China said on Friday that it was happy to accept earthquake aid from its sometimes bitter diplomatic rival Taiwan, after the self-ruled island complained its huge neighbour had refused to accept its donations.

A spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office said the government had received or been promised more than 800 million yuan ($115.3 million) in cash and other donations from Taiwan business people, both in China and in Taiwan.

The 7.9 magnitude quake on May 12 in the southwestern province of Sichuan killed more than 68,000 people, and thousands more bodies are estimated to be still buried under the rubble.

"I want to tell the people of Taiwan you can set your minds at ease. We will certainly send your aid to the disaster zone," spokesman Yang Yi told a news conference in Beijing.

But a spokeswoman for Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said China had snubbed T$770 million ($25.3 million) in quake aid donations collected by the Taiwan government for more than two weeks.

The money, earmarked for quake area reconstruction work, included T$700 million in government funds and another T$70 million from private Taiwan donors, including numerous ordinary citizens, the spokeswoman said.

Taiwan did not know why China had ignored its aid, she added.

"They haven't replied to the letter we sent, but we'll keep contacting," she said.

Relations between China and Taiwan have warmed since a new, more pro-Chinese president took up office on the island earlier this month, though the two sides have endured decades of deep mistrust which is unlikely to vanish overnight.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island amid a civil war with the Communists in 1949. China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.

This week China and Taiwan agreed to resume dialogue, suspended for nearly a decade, which will focus on starting regular direct flights between the two. The head of Taiwan's ruling Nationalist Party also met Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Yang praised the people of Taiwan for their generosity and enthusiastic giving towards disaster relief.

"I want again to express my sincere thanks to our Taiwan compatriots for their concern for people in the disaster zone and their generous help," he said.

Taiwan medical teams, including from the island's Red Cross, have been in Sichuan, though two had since left, Yang added.