China says ready to talk to Taiwan, end hostility

By Christopher Bodeen

Associated Press

BEIJING — China’s Premier Wen Jiabao said Thursday that Beijing is ready to hold talks with Taiwan on political and military issues in the pursuit of ending hostility between the longtime rivals.

In a report to the annual legislative session’s opening ceremony, Wen hailed a significant improvement in ties and a major reduction in tensions over the past year between China and the self-governing island across the Taiwan Strait that Beijing claims as Chinese territory.

"Positive changes occurred in the situation in Taiwan, and major breakthroughs were made in cross-strait relations," Wen said.


Beijing was ready to hold talks to "create conditions for ending the state of hostility and concluding a peace agreement" between the sides, he said.

Wen’s remarks to the National People’s Congress were a near word-for-word reiteration of offers made by president and Communist Party leader Hu Jintao in a Dec. 31 address.

Relations have improved dramatically since Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou took office last year with a mandate to reduce tensions and strengthen economic ties between the sides.

Wen gave no additional details on the content of a peace agreement or what the talks on political and military issues would include. However, the tone of his remarks was far more conciliatory than the typically hawkish references to Taiwan contained in previous addresses to the congress.

A vice chairman of Taiwan’s Cabinet body responsible for China policy said political negotiations would move forward "only after the two sides have reached a certain degree of mutual trust, and also with the internal consensus of each side."

Mainland Affairs Council’s Liu Te-shun also referenced the hundreds of Chinese missiles pointed at Taiwan and other military threats that are a prime source of distrust and trepidation.

The Chinese authorities "should remove the military threat toward us and should extend the principle of pursuing peace and prosperity together to every level of cross-strait interaction to build mutual trust," Liu told reporters.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949 and Beijing says it is intent on eventual unification, by persuasion if possible but by force if considered necessary.


Taiwan’s 23 million people overwhelmingly favor maintaining their de facto independence and its hard-won democratic freedoms, and Ma has insisted that discussions on Taiwan’s final status won’t happen during his presidency.

He has pushed for closer business and trade ties and a peace treaty with Beijing, while continuing to push for a greater participation by Taiwan in international affairs.

Wen pointed to increased contacts between the two, particularly in the economic and financial fields, and vowed to provide financial and investment support for Taiwanese businesses operating on the mainland. Late last month, officials said Taiwan and China would sign agreements to collaborate on finance and reducing crime.

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