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Meeting, use of official titles mark "milestone" in Taiwan-China ties

2013/10/06 21:05:44

Taipei, Oct. 6 (CNA) Taiwan and China hit a major milestone in bilateral ties Sunday when their respective heads of cross-strait affairs met for the first time and addressed each other by their formal titles, according to Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and local scholars.

Chang Wu-ueh, a noted expert on China, said the demeanor of MAC Minister Wang Yu-chi and China's Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun during their meeting in Indonesia has set a precedent for more officials to use their formal titles in future bilateral meetings.

The meeting means a future visit by Wang to China or one by Zhang to Taiwan is no longer inconceivable, said Chang, who heads the Graduate Institute of China Studies at Tamkang University.

The meeting has set the stage for more frequent interactions and will help advance cooperation, possibly pushing forward efforts to establish respective representative offices on either side of the Taiwan Strait, he said.

Chou Jih-shine, a professor at National Taiwan University's Graduate Institute of National Development, said the use of official titles marked a big step forward, noting that Beijing had previously recognized only the Straits Exchange Foundation -- Taiwan's semi-official organization in charge of cross-strait negotiation -- and not the Cabinet-level MAC.

The Taiwan Affairs Office also cast the meeting in a positive light, but stopped short of calling it a breakthrough. Beijing's top Taiwan policy body said that the first face-to-face talk between the ministers was characterized by effective communication which helped boost mutual understanding, deepen mutual trust and push cross-strait ties forward.

Wang and Zhang met earlier in the day in Bali, Indonesia, where the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum is being held, following a closed-door talk between Taiwan's former Vice President Vincent Siew and China's President Xi Jinping.

Siew was attending the APEC forum as a representative of President Ma Ying-jeou.

The MAC said that by addressing each other as "minister," Wang and Zhang showed "mutual non-denial" of each side's authority to govern and deepened the mutual respect between them.

One day earlier, Wang had said that the MAC's helping to arrange the meeting between Siew and Xi -- the first time the council has contributed to such a high-level meeting in the past two decades -- was a major "breakthrough." Previous meetings between Former Vice President Lien Chan and China's then-President Hu Jintao, which took place between 2008 and 2012, were arranged by Lien's office.

In Sunday's meeting, which took place in the lobby of a Bali hotel, Wang suggested that both he and Zhang make regular visit to each other's territory to facilitate communication. Zhang gave a positive response that deferred any such visits to "an appropriate time."

Taiwan and China have been governed separately since they split amid a civil war in 1949.

(By Scarlett Chai and Scully Hsiao)