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Taiwan envoy leaves on historic trip to China

world Updated: Jun 11, 2008 16:06 IST
AFP
Taiwan

Taiwan's top negotiator with China left for Beijing on Wednesday ahead of historic talks which will be the first direct dialogue between the two sides in more than a decade.

Chiang Pin-kun, chairman of the semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation, flew out on an Air Macau plane, TV pictures showed. He is expected to arrive in Beijing around 3:00 pm (1230 IST) via Macau.

Chiang, who is leading a 19-member delegation, pledged to conduct the talks on a basis of "rationality, equal footing and dignity" to pursue peace and prosperity for both sides.

"We will put Taiwan and the people's interests first during the trip of cross-strait trust-building and negotiations," he said before departure.

Chiang was scheduled to hold talks with his Chinese counterpart Chen Yunlin from the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait on Thursday and reportedly will meet President Hu Jintao on Friday.

Lai Shin-yuan, chairwoman of the cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council which charts Taiwan's mainland policy, hailed the trip as opening "a new page in history."

"We hope that Chiang and his delegation . Will lay the basis to stabilise ties and normalise exchanges across the strait," she said.

The two sides are expected to strike a deal on launching weekend charter flights and allowing up to 3,000 Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan daily.

The moves will mean a big step forward for Taiwan which has banned direct trade and transport exchanges since the two rivals split in 1949 after a civil war.

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