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June 26, 2017

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Taiwan urges China to drop condition on Olympic torch route

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A senior Taiwanese official urged China on Tuesday to drop an "extraneous condition" that he said led to the breakdown of talks over the weekend on bringing the 2008 Olympic torch to the island.

A member of Taiwan's Olympics Committee held talks with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing on Saturday after China agreed to consider Taiwan an external, instead of internal part of the torch route.

On Tuesday Chen Ming-tong, head of the Mainland Affairs Council, the Cabinet-level body that carries out Taiwan island's China policy, said the Chinese side was holding up a deal on the torch issue by imposing last minute conditions.

"We would welcome the Olympic torch coming to Taiwan," Chen said. "But we could by no means accept the extraneous condition that China attached on the eve of talks."

Chen did not elaborate on what caused the weekend discussions to bog down. But Taiwanese media said China insisted Taiwan's national flag and official emblem not show up along a proposed 24 kilometer (15-mile) torch route in Taipei.

In a rare united stance, politicians from both ruling and opposition parties have condemned Beijing on the torch issue, accusing it of failing to live up to the Olympic spirit and showing little respect for the Taiwanese.

In his remarks on Tuesday, Chen said the ball was now in Beijing's court.

"Whether the Olympic torch could come or not now depends on Beijing," he said.

In April, Taiwan rejected its proposed inclusion in the worldwide torch relay, saying the Beijing committee made the self-ruled island appear to be part of Chinese territory by arranging for the torch to pass Taiwan before it goes onto China-controlled Hong Kong.

The Taiwanese government objects to any attempt to label the island as part of China, but Beijing insists Taiwan is part of its territory, and has threatened to go to war if it moves to formalize its independence.

The two sides split amid civil war in 1949.

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