China says resignation of top Taiwan official won't affect ties

BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese government said on Wednesday that the resignation of the head of Taiwan's China policy-making body, the Mainland Affairs Council, would not affect the normalisation of ties which has gathered momentum since 2008.

Mr Wang Yu-chi said he had stepped down after objecting to a court ruling clearing a former deputy of leaking sensitive information to China.

The former deputy, Mr Chang Hsien-ya, had been under investigation since 2014 on allegations he had leaked information to China, but prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence of that.

Mr Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office, told reporters that he noted the report, though would not comment on the specifics. "We believe that personnel changes ought not affect the operations of the mechanism," Mr Ma said, referring to regular communication channels the two sides set up during Mr Wang's tenure.

The Mainland Affairs Council handles cross-strait policy with its Chinese counterpart, the Taiwan Affairs Office.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war in 1949.

Talks between the two have increased substantially as cross-strait business ties have surged to their most extensive in six decades following the election of the China-friendly Mr Ma Ying-jeou as Taiwan president in 2008.

However, deep political and security suspicions remain, especially as China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.

Last month, Taiwan protested against Beijing's decision to open new domestic commercial air routes over the sensitive Taiwan Strait that separates the two.

Mr Ma said that the route had already been approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization and was in any case not in an area Taipei controllers had responsibility for.

"I think we can dispel Taiwan's concerns," he said.

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