April 16, 2006

China, Taiwan should resume talks: Hu

By Benjamin Kang Lim

BEIJING (Reuters) - Days before a summit with President
Bush in Washington, Chinese Communist Party chief Hu Jintao
called on Sunday for talks between China and Taiwan as soon as
possible to maintain peace in the region.

China and Taiwan should "resume talks on an equal footing
as soon as possible," Hu told Lien Chan, former chairman of
Taiwan's main opposition Nationalist Party, who led a
170-member delegation of business leaders and party officials
to attend a two-day economic and trade forum in Beijing.

Taiwan's policy-making Mainland Affairs Council dismissed
Hu's overtures, saying he lacked sincerity and that talks
should proceed without the "one China" principle as a

"While Communist China talks about peaceful development
across the Strait, it refuses dialogue and consultation,
continues its military deployment against Taiwan and threatens
peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait," the council said in
a statement.

Throughout his speech, Hu stressed the importance of peace
between the mainland and the island Beijing has claimed as its
own since their split at the end of the civil war in 1949.

Beijing has threatened to attack self-ruled democratic
Taiwan if it formally declared independence.

China has resorted in recent years to the
divide-and-conquer tactics of talking to the opposition while
isolating President Chen Shui-bian to force him to kowtow to
its terms for talks. The United States has prodded China to
deal with Chen directly.

Fence-mending talks between Beijing and Taipei have been
frozen since 1999 when then-president Lee Teng-hui redefined
bilateral relations as "special state to state."

China considers Taiwan a province, not an independent

Without mentioning Chen by name, Hu said ties have not
moved forward because Taiwan's leaders have refused to embrace
the 1992 consensus in which Beijing and Taipei's previous
Nationalist administration agreed that both the island and the
mainland are part of "one China."

"Adhering to the 1992 consensus is an important basis for
realising peaceful development between the two sides," Hu said.


Hu's overtures came on the heels of the abolition by Chen
in late February of a symbolic body and guidelines on eventual
unification with China. Beijing condemned Chen's move then, but
Hu said on Sunday China's policy toward Taiwan will not change.

"We will fulfil our promises to Taiwan compatriots. There
will be no change just because of momentary fluctuations in the
situation or a small group of people interfering in or
sabotaging" ties, Hu said without elaborating.

Lien, routed by Chen in the 2000 presidential elections and
again in 2004, said on Sunday there can be no prosperity if
there is no peace. He warned of possible conflict with China
due to a tug-of-war between pro- and anti-independence forces
in Taiwan.

The forum between the Communists and the Nationalists, who
favor closer ties with the mainland, ended on Saturday when
China held out a clutch of potential economic agreements
intended to court Taiwan public opinion. Chen's ruling
Democratic Progressive Party did not attend.

China offered aviation, agricultural and finance deals and
urged Taiwan to negotiate on steadily expanding direct air
flights. China also pledged to lower tariff and quarantine
barriers on Taiwan-grown fruit, vegetables and other farm
goods, and ease rules for tourism and investment in China.

In Taiwan, Chen presided over a drill simulating a
"national security crisis" to test the government's readiness
in case of attack, the National Security Council said in a
statement issued shortly after the meeting between Hu and Lien.

Taiwan newspapers said the 20-hour drill, which started
late on Saturday, simulated scenarios such as China's launching
attacks on the presidential office, defense ministry, airports,
harbours and power plants, and involved high-ranking officials.