Archive for Saturday, April 30, 2005

Taiwanese opposition leader meets with Chinese president

April 30, 2005

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— The leader of Taiwan's opposition Nationalist Party, on a historic fence-mending trip to the mainland, met at length Friday with Chinese President Hu Jintao and agreed to work with him on reducing military tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

Hu greeted Nationalist Party leader Lien Chan as if he were a visiting head of state, saying his visit injects "new vitality" into efforts to pacify the tense strait.

Hu and Lien gripped hands warmly on a red carpet in the Great Hall of the People as major TV news channels in China carried unusual live coverage.

The high pageantry of the meeting appeared aimed at deflating pro-independence momentum in Taiwan and isolating the island's pro-sovereignty president.

Lien, who lived in China as a youth but fled with Nationalist forces to Taiwan when Mao Zedong's Communist armies overran them in 1949, is the first Nationalist Party leader to set foot in China in 56 years.

After a two-hour meeting, Hu and Lien issued a joint statement pledging an array of measures, including efforts to seek an end to cross-strait hostilities, build a mechanism for mutual military trust, facilitate the sale of Taiwan farm produce on the mainland and seek a way for Taiwan to participate in groups such as the World Health Organization, something Beijing has blocked.

It wasn't clear if the accords would carry more than symbolic weight. Lien narrowly lost his most recent bid for the presidency of Taiwan 13 months ago, and the Nationalist Party has little power outside the legislature.

In Taipei, the government of Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian dismissed the Lien visit as unlikely to reduce hostility.

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