Taiwan, China plan further talks in sign of improving relations

Chairman of Taiwan's ruling Nationalist Kuomintang Party (KMT) Eric Chu, also New Taipei mayor, shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping as they pose for pictures during their meeting in Beijing, China on May 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Chairman of Taiwan's ruling Nationalist Kuomintang Party (KMT) Eric Chu, also New Taipei mayor, shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping as they pose for pictures during their meeting in Beijing, China on May 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Taiwan said on Friday its top official in charge of relations with China will meet his Chinese counterpart this month on an outlying island, the fourth such meeting since the start of last year in a sign of warming relations.

Trade ties between the two sides have improved to their best level in six decades since Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office in 2008. But both sides remain political rivals, with China viewing the democratic island as a renegade province.

The announcement of the meeting on the island of Kinmen came less than two weeks after Chinese President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping held talks with Taiwan's ruling Nationalist Party chairman Eric Chu in Beijing, the highest-level meeting between the two parties in six years.

Kinmen island lies just 2 km off the coast of China's Fujian province.

In the meeting set for May 23-24, Andrew Hsia, head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), and Zhang Zhijun, director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, will discuss issues such as in what name both sides would agree for Taiwan to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and how to cooperate in a crackdown on economic crime, MAC vice chairwoman Wu Mei-hung said. "We hope both sides can make joint efforts to continue to ensure peace and development," Wu told a news briefing.

China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists fled to the island.

Taiwan's pride in its democracy helps reinforce the unwillingness of many to be absorbed politically by China, which has not ruled out force to ensure unification.

Thousands of young people occupied Taiwan's parliament in March last year in an unprecedented protest against a planned trade pact calling for closer ties with Beijing.