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Beijing positive on Wang-Zhang meet

BEIJING--The Feb. 11 meeting between the top officials in charge of cross-strait affairs across the Taiwan Strait has achieved several major results, a spokeswoman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO, 國台辦) said yesterday.

Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦), the head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC, 陸委會), met with TAO head Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) for formal talks in Nanjing on Feb. 11, the first ever meeting between incumbent Cabinet-level agency chiefs from the two countries.

TAO spokeswoman Fan Liqing (范麗青) said Wang and Zhang exchanged views on a wide range of issues related to cross strait relations and obtained major results.

First, she said the meeting has “enhanced understanding and strengthened mutual trust,” and both sides gave positive assessments of the results obtained so far through the peaceful development of cross-strait relations.

They also agreed to continue to expand exchanges, promote further consultations and deepen cooperation.

Second, she said the meeting helped “establish a mechanism for a regular exchange of visits” between the TAO and the MAC.

The two sides will continue to promote cross-strait relations based on the “1992 consensus,” she said.

The consensus refers to a tacit understanding that there is only one China, with each side free to interpret its meaning, though China generally refuses to acknowledge the existence of any room for interpretation.

Future of SEF and ARATS

Fan added, however, that the new communications mechanism will not replace the functions of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF, 海基會) and China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS, 海協會), quasi-official organizations that have handled negotiations on behalf of China and Taiwan in the past.

Third, she said the meeting “covered tangible issues, and decided on issues to be discussed,” including follow-up talks on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement and increased cultural, educational and technological exchanges.

Both sides will also continue to discuss the establishment of representative offices of the SEF and ARATS in each other's territory, and push for news exchanges and health insurance coverage of students pursuing advanced studies on either side of the Taiwan Strait, she said.

Official Title

Despite Fan's insistence that progress had been made at the meetings, she refused to call Wang by his official title of “minister” of the MAC, instead describing him as the “person in charge” of the agency.

Much was made of Zhang's use of Wang's official title during their talks, but the gesture has not carried over to other government officials or even senior academics.

Ma-Xi Meet

Fan also said that China has been open to a meeting of the two sides' leaders, contending that people on both sides have hoped for such a meeting to promote peaceful development.

But the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum has its way of doing things, she said, referring to a memorandum of understanding that bars Taiwan's president, vice president, premier and vice premier from attending the APEC leaders' meeting.

Fan said the proposed encounter was not on the agenda of the Wang-Zhang talks but noted that the two officials unofficially expressed their respective views.

When asked how many Wang-Zhang meetings there will be, she said Zhang has accepted an invitation to visit Taiwan, and the exact date has to be worked out by both sides.

China wants to see that Zhang's first visit to Taiwan goes well, which will represent “another step forward,” she said, after which further steps can be taken.

Asked about the meaning of Zhang's comment that “imagination is needed” to solve cross-strait difficulties, Fan said cross-strait relations have undergone difficulties over the past decades, and there are bound to be hurdles ahead.

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