From: Reuters
Published April 14, 2008 03:22 AM

Taiwan VP-elect says China agrees to official talks

TAIPEI (Reuters) - China and Taiwan have agreed to restart official dialogue after a gap of nearly a decade, Taiwan Vice President-elect Vincent Siew said on Monday as relations appear to thaw under a new more China-friendly administration.

Siew held a historic meeting with China President Hu Jintao during an economic forum in China over the weekend, where the two agreed to restart talks that have been frozen since 1999, Siew told reporters after his return.

"There's a lot of ice here, so we don't want to melt it all at once and turn it into a flood," Siew said. "We need time, wisdom and will power to accumulate goodwill and mutual trust."

China has claimed self-ruled Taiwan as its territory since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and pledged to bring the island under its rule, by force if necessary.

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Siew said it was too early to comment on a timetable, but that both sides wanted to start talks as soon as possible.

The last eight years have seen relations across the Taiwan Strait sour under the administration of outgoing President Chen Shui-bian, whose Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) favors formal independence from China.

But last month, voters overwhelmingly picked the main opposition candidate, Ma Ying-jeou, and running mate Siew, of the Nationalist Party (KMT), to become Taiwan's next president and vice president, partly on the promise of better China ties.

The pair will take office on May 20.

Ma added: "After May 20 we will immediately push for resumption of talks between the two sides, and we hope that it can happen very quickly."

China and Taiwan began an official dialogue after reaching the so-called 1992 consensus, in which both sides agreed to adhere to their own interpretation of the "one China" policy insisted on by Beijing before any talks could occur.

But the talks broke off in 1999 when then-president Lee Teng-hui defined ties as "special state-to-state" relations.

(Reporting by Doug Young and Roger Tung; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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