04/12/2008, 00.00
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An historic "icebreaking" encounter: talks open between China and Taiwan

Lengthy "closed door" talks between Chinese president Hu and Taiwanese vice president Siew at the Boao Forum. It is the first time since 1949. The United States: it is "the best way forward".

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - An historic meeting today at the Boao Forum between Chinese President Hu Jintao and newly elected Taiwanese vice president Vincent Siew Wan-chang.  It is the highest level of contact since the civil war of 1949, when Taiwan declared itself the seat of the Republic of China.

The occasion of the meeting "behind closed doors", which lasted more than 20 minutes, was the presence of the two leaders at the annual Boao economic forum (Hainan), which gathers numerous experts and government leaders to discuss the economy and cooperation in Asia.  The two had met previously during a dinner in 2004, also at the Forum, when Siew did not hold any state office.

New Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou, of the Kuomintang party, elected in March, has promised to improve relations with Beijing, which deteriorated during the 8 years when Chen Shui-bian, of the progressive democratic party, was president. Chen repeatedly sought international endorsement of Taipei's independence, and Beijing has always repeated that it considers this one of its own rebel provinces, keeping hundreds of missiles pointed at the island.

Yesterday Siew, arriving at Boao at the head of a substantial delegation, repeated that he is participating only as president of the Cross-Strait Common Market Foundation, a group that wants to increase economic ties between the two countries.  But he announced his "hope that through this meeting we can help melt the ice". "I very much hope the two sides of the strait can genuinely understand each other and construct a basis for mutual trust". Among his objectives are "cooperation on environmental and energy issues". At the airport, he was received by figures such as the director of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, Chen Yunlin, and an official dinner was held in his honour.  Some of the street were blocked to facilitate the passage of the delegation.

Before the encounter, U.S. deputy secretary of state John  Negroponte commented that dialogue between the authorities of China and Taiwan is "the best way forward".

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