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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 May, 2005, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
Taiwan head in surprise Fiji stop
Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian (l) before departing for a tour of the Pacific, 1 May
Mr Chen's Pacific tour has been overshadowed by events in China
Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian has made an unscheduled visit to Fiji, during a tour of allies in the Pacific.

The visit, which was described as a transit stop, was unusual since Fiji has no diplomatic ties with Taiwan, recognising China instead.

Beijing is likely to be angered by the visit since it considers Taiwan a breakaway province.

Mr Chen's tour has been overshadowed by Taiwan's opposition leader Lien Chan's historic visit to mainland China.

Speaking to the BBC on Wednesday, Mr Lien said his trip had already produced "concrete results".

He said that Chinese tourists would no longer be banned from visiting Taiwan, and that China would ease restrictions on the transfer of some agricultural products from the island.

Mr Lien became the first Nationalist party leader to hold talks with China's Communist Party chief since the Nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the Chinese civil war.

In a goodwill gesture to mark his trip, China included the offer of two giant pandas, which are considered China's ultimate diplomatic gesture.

But Taiwan's top China policymaker, Joseph Wu, said Taipei would not accept the pandas if Beijing was attempting to downgrade the island's sovereign status as part of the gift.

China has said in the past that it will only negotiate with Taiwan's government if it agrees to Beijing's so-called one-China policy - acknowledging that Taiwan is part of China.

Beijing has also moved to build closer ties with Taiwan's opposition parties. Following on from Mr Lien's visit, a second Taiwanese opposition leader - James Soong of the People First Party - is heading to China on Thursday for talks.

Diplomatic allegiance

Mr Chen arrived at Fiji's international airport on Wednesday afternoon, as he neared the end of a five-day tour of the Pacific islands.

His earlier stops - in the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu - were all to states which recognise Taiwan diplomatically.

China claims Taiwan as its territory, and strongly discourages other countries from having diplomatic ties with the island.

Only 25 countries, mostly developing nations in Africa, Latin America and the Pacific, recognise Taipei rather than Beijing.

giant pandas (file picture)
Mr Lien's visit yielded the offer of two giant pandas

Ahead of the visit to Fiji, Taiwanese media reports said the island chain was going to announce that it had formally switched its diplomatic ties to Taiwan.

But Michel Lu, a spokesman for the Taiwanese foreign ministry, said Mr Chen was not in Fiji to talk about changing allegiances.

"The transit is to make the president's trip more convenient and comfortable," Mr Lu told Reuters.

According to Fijian government sources, Chen Shui-bian was a guest of Taiwanese people living in Fiji, and was also due to have an unofficial meeting with Fijian politicians.

Mr Chen is due back in Taiwan on Thursday, after a short stop in Guam.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
How Lien Chan's visit has improved cross-strait relations




SEE ALSO:
China's panda ambassadors
03 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
China offers Taiwan giant pandas
03 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Taiwan head seeks Beijing talks
01 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Lien Chan's landmark trip
29 Apr 05 |  In Pictures
Lien's China trip highlights tensions
27 Apr 05 |  Asia-Pacific


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