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China: Taiwanese President Urges Beijing To Talk With Him

Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian has urged China to redirect dialogue to his government after a Taiwanese opposition leader made progress with Beijing in reconciliation talks.

Prague, 1 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Taiwanese President Chen is urging China to open talks with his government after a meeting in Beijing between his two main adversaries -- Chinese President Hu Jintao and a Taiwanese nationalist opposition leader.

Chen's remarks today were his first public reaction to the 29 April historic handshake between China's president and Lien Chan, the chairman of Taiwan's Kuomintang nationalist party. Chen says Beijing should not deal only with Taiwan's opposition parties.

"No matter which Taiwanese party or individuals China prefers to talk to, it ultimately has to talk to the leader chosen by Taiwan people and the government of Taiwan," he said. "This is the right way to open normalized communication channels to normalize relations."

There has been hostility for decades between the parties of Lien and Hu -- including a civil war that was fought for control of China. The Kuomintang party was toppled by the Communists in 1949 and its leadership fled to Taiwan. China claims sovereignty over democratic Taiwan.

But the long-time adversaries Hu and Lien have agreed to work together to avoid military conflict in one of Asia's most dangerous hotspots. Both said they would work for a resumption of dialogue that has been suspended since 1999. They also discussed the possibilities for a common market and improve trade and investment ties.

Analysts say the alliance between Beijing and Taiwan's opposition puts pressure on the Taiwanese president to reconcile with China. But Beijing refuses to deal with the pro-independence Chen unless he accepts their core "one China" policy.

Critics of Lien say his visit is aiding China's divide-and-conquer strategy to isolate Chen. Supporters of Lien say he has helped lower tensions.

Chen's Democratic Progressive Party and senior government officials in Taiwan accuse Lien of failing to stand up to China and reassert Taiwan's sovereignty: "To maintain the balance and democratic development across the strait is the only way to minimize the differences between the two sides. To structure a peace and stable exchange frame work across the strait is the only way to ensure the sustainable peace."

Chen also is suggesting that Lien has been too critical of Taiwanese democracy while in China.

In a speech to Beijing University students, Lien had talked about the democratization of Taiwan and the lifting of martial law. But he also talked about chaos in Taiwan's domestic politics.

Beijing uses its political clout internationally to try to isolate Taiwan. The antisecession law enacted in March authorizes the use of force against the island if it pushes for statehood.

Lien is the first Kuomintang leader to set foot on Chinese soil since 1949. He was flying to Shanghai from his birthplace, Xian, today. He is scheduled to meet China's top negotiator for Taiwan, Wang Daohan, tomorrow before returning to Taiwan the following day.

Lien's trip has won mixed reviews from the press in Taiwan. Some newspapers have praised his peace efforts while others accuse him of selling out Taiwan. China's state press has hailed his visit as a "major step." But the official Chinese media says the China-Taiwan conflict is far from resolved.