Monday July 27, 2009
Chinese leader contacts Taiwan rival directly
TAIPEI (Reuters) - Chinese President Hu Jintao sent Taiwan counterpart Ma Ying-jeou a telegram on Monday applauding his election as ruling party chief, the first direct communication between the rival leaders.
Taiwan's Nationalist Party (KMT) elected Ma as chief on Sunday, giving him more control of the island's China policy at a time when ties are warming.
"I hope our two parties can continue to promote peaceful cross-Strait development, deepen mutual trust, bring good news to compatriots on both sides and create a revival of the great Chinese race," Hu, who is also chairman of the Communist Party of China, said in the 73-word message.
China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's Communists won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's KMT fled to the island. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.
Ma was elected president in May 2008 on pledges to open more trade channels with China. The two sides have signed landmark trade and transit deals since then but avoided political issues.
The telegram, the first direct communication between Hu and Ma, suggests that Hu eventually wants to meet, one analyst said.
"It's sort of expected," said Lin Chong-pin, a strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taipei. "It is in Hu Jintao's benefit or advantage to meet. It would be a personal feat. He's going to retire in 2012. He may get a peace prize."
Ma's election and Hu's subsequent telegram helped boost Taiwan stocks which rose 0.79 percent on Monday to end above 7,000 points for the first time in 11 months.
But a meeting between the two leaders could take years as both sides calculate the risks, analysts say. The KMT and Hu's Communists have been meeting informally since 2005, but Ma, mindful of the island's sustained anti-China opposition, has avoided the meetings.
Ma answered Hu on Monday, repeating the Chinese leader's ideas and suggesting that they "put aside disputes."
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