Beijing Ready to Talk With Taiwan

BEIJING (AP) - 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 cheered a significant improvement in ties and a major
reduction in tensions over the past year between Beijing and the
self-governing island it 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.

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 were far more
conciliatory than the typically hawkish references to Taiwan
contained in previous addresses to the congress.

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council had no immediate comment on
Wen's remarks.

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.

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

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
will sign agreements to collaborate on finance and reducing crime.


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