October 13, 2005

China to mark Taiwan return from Japan for 1st time

By Benjamin Kang Lim

BEIJING (Reuters) - China, asserting its claim to Taiwan,
will for the first time mark the anniversary of the island's
return to Chinese rule this month with leaders attending a
ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, an official said on

Communist China has so far never celebrated the October 25
anniversary because doing so would complicate its claim that
the Communist Red Army, not the Nationalists, won the
eight-year war against Japan.

Japan returned Taiwan to Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists at
the end of World War Two in 1945 after 50 years of colonial
rule. The Nationalists lost the civil war to the Communists in
1949 and fled to the island, over which Beijing still claims

"To promote the peaceful reunification of the motherland
and realize the revival and earnest struggle of the Chinese
people, the central government in October will organize
commemorations of the 60th anniversary of Taiwan's return," Li
Weiyi, spokesman of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, told a press

The anniversary is celebrated annually in self-ruled
democratic Taiwan, which styles itself as the Republic of
China, though President Chen Shui-bian's administration has
played it down in recent years.

There was no immediate comment from Taiwan.

Li also said that Lien Chan, honorary chairman of the
Kuomintang (KMT), or Nationalist Party, was due to arrive on
Friday in Shenyang, capital of the northeastern province of
Liaoning, to visit some of his mother's friends before making
pre-arranged trips to other cities.

Lien made history in late April when he became the first
KMT leader to set foot on the mainland since 1949.

China-Taiwan relations have thawed this year following
visits by Lien and other Taiwan opposition politicians, the
opening of mainland air space to Taiwan airlines and Beijing's
promises to give Taipei two endangered pandas.

But critics see the visits as part of a divide-and-rule
tactic by Beijing to isolate President Chen Shui-bian and his
Democratic Progressive Party.

Beijing has threatened to attack the island of 23 million
people if it pushes for formal independence.

Pictures and resumes of the 11 panda finalists in
consideration for shipping to Taiwan were shown at Thursday's
press conference.

Spokesman Li said this month's anniversary celebrations
were also intended to "encourage compatriots across the Straits
to join hands, eliminate the destructive obstruction of 'Taiwan
independence' splittist forces and build cross-Strait ties that
develop in a peaceful and stable way."