TAIPEI (Reuters) - China’s top negotiator on Taiwan will meet the island’s president for the first time, a Taipei official said on Thursday, in what would be a further sign of improved relations between the diplomatic rivals.
The two sides would also sign deals on regular flights and direct cargo shipments, P.K. Chiang, Taiwan’s top negotiator on China policy, told Reuters.
Chen Yunlin, head of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, would meet President Ma Ying-jeou in Taiwan at the end of October or at the beginning of November, Chiang said.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office was unavailable for comment.
China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and has vowed to bring the island under its rule, by force if necessary. But relations have greatly improved since Ma came to office in May.
Taiwan is recognized by just 23 countries around the world compared to about 170 that recognize China.
During Chen’s visit, which would be the highest level by a Chinese official to Taiwan, the two sides would sign deals allowing direct daily passenger flights, a launch of cargo flights and direct cargo sea routes between the two sides, Chiang said.
“I hope we can turn our weekend flights into daily flights,” Chiang told Reuters in an interview. “And we will for sure.”
Trade and transit links with fast-growing economic powerhouse China should help lift Taiwan out of a seven-year economic slump aggravated by the global financial crisis, he said.
“Taiwan is in last place among emerging Asian markets,” he said. “These direct flights can add business opportunities.”
At a landmark meeting in Beijing in June, China and Taiwan agreed to begin direct charter flights Friday through Monday and let as many as 3,000 Chinese tourists visit the island per day.
Reporting by Ralph Jennings, Roger Tung and Miao Jung Lin; Editing by Nick Macfie