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Sunday, October 18, 1998 Published at 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Gaps remain between China and Taiwan

Mr Koo (left) in earlier talks with the chief Chinese negotiator, Wang Daohan

A senior Taiwanese envoy, Koo Chen-Fu, has held talks with the Chinese President, Jiang Zemin - the highest level official contact between the two sides for nearly 50 years.

[ image: President Jiang Zemin: landmark meeting]
President Jiang Zemin: landmark meeting
Mr Koo described said his encounter with President Jiang as a frank and sincere exchange of views.

"Not a single person was angry. If there was anger, we would not have been able to talk with each other for an hour and a half," Mr Koo said.

He said they avoided the specific details of the many issues which divide the two sides and instead discussed questions such as democratisation, which Taiwan says is a pre-requisite for reunification with the mainland.

Duncan Hewitt: A significant day for China and Taiwan
BBC Correspondent Duncan Hewitt says it remains to be seen whether Beijing will be satisified with the kind of gradual progress sought by the Taiwanese side.

In the run-up to the meeting in Beijing, Mr Koo accused the Chinese leadership of obstructing relations between the island and the mainland by refusing to recognise Taiwan as a sovereign state.

Chinese officials said they would stick to their "one country, two systems" policy and urged Taiwan to face up to reality.

New beginning

Mr Koo arrived in Beijing on Friday after two days of talks with Chinese officials in Shanghai.

He spent Saturday sightseeing in Beijing, attending a banquet and going to the opera.

On his arrival Mr Koo said he was happy with a new beginning in relations with China. But he warned there was still a long way to go before there was a bond of trust.

Mr Koo said his trip had helped to thaw the ice between the two sides.

On Thursday the chief Chinese negotiator, Wang Daohan, accepted an invitation from Mr Koo to visit Taiwan.

Building confidence

The two sides have also agreed to step up cross straits exchanges as part of confidence-building measures.

But analysts say the talks are unlikely to resolve any of the key issues dividing the "two Chinas".

Taiwan - or the Republic of China as it is officially known - broke away from the mainland in 1949 following the communist victory in the civil war. It is recognised by only a handful of countries.

Members of the nationalist Kuomintang fled to the island as Mao Zedong was forming the People's Republic of China.

There has been an uneasy truce between the two ever since with diplomatic hostilities replacing actual warfare.

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