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Friday, 2 June, 2000, 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK
Taiwan urges China talks
China missile
China has repeatedly threatened military force
Taiwan's premier Tang Fei has pledged to push for talks with China and seek ways to exchange military information to prevent a war.

Mr Tang Fei also promised to review Taiwan's 50-year ban on direct air and shipping links with China.

"We hope to turn goodwill into action, pursue more exchanges and co-operation and start a dialogue," he told parliament.
Tang Fei
Mr Tang: Keen for full talks with China

Mr Tang, a former defence minister, said the expected admission of both Taiwan and China to the World Trade Organisation this year would provide a turning point for improving trade and other relations between the two sides.

The ban on direct direct trade, communications and transport links was imposed in 1949 when China and Taiwan split following the civil war.

Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province, has threatened to invade the island if it declares independence, a move President Chen Shui-bian says he has no plans to make.

Defence

In his address to parliament, Mr Tang proposed setting up a "cross-strait military trust" mechanism to avoid triggering a conflict due to "miscalculation on military information". He did not elaborate on how this would work.
Taiwan army
Taiwan will continue to modernise its military

However, Mr Tang added that Taiwan had no option but to continue to strenghten its defence capability, given Beijing's military build-up and threats.

Beijing has pressed the new administration in Taiwan to embrace its "One China" policy to allow bi-lateral talks to resume, but Taiwan has so far balked at this.

The Chinese Government broke off talks with Taipei last July after the then Taiwanese President, Lee Teng-hui, said their relations should be "state-to-state" - a term strongly opposed by Beijing.

Hong Kong warned

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has reacted angrily to a warning from a top China official that businesses in the territory should not trade with Taiwan firms advocating independence.

Hong Kong's Chief Secretary Anson Chan said politics had no place in Hong Kong's business world.
Hong Kong skyline
Hong Kong fears erosion of autonomy

"In our view, business decisions are best left to businessmen and should not invite the interference of any official of whatever status," she added.

"The [Hong Kong] government has consistently stressed that trade and business matters should be kept strictly separate and apart from political considerations."

She was speaking after Hong Kong-based official He Zhiming warned local businessmen they were "taking a risk" if they traded with Taiwanese partners who supported independence.

Warning

Mr He said it was wrong that some Taiwanese businessmen advocated independence but made money trading with the mainland.

"This is absolutely not permitted. I believe all of you, on listening to these remarks, will know how to choose when seeking Taiwan trading partners," he told an audience of pro-Beijing businessmen.

Hong Kong has long been accustomed to a freewheeling capitalist system which Beijing promised would remain unchanged for 50 years after the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Mr He's remarks came two months after the deputy director of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong caused a similar controversy when he said the local media should not report views advocating Taiwan independence.

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See also:

20 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan leader rules out independence
26 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Hong Kong sparks Taiwan row
25 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan plays down China exercises
24 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
China bans Taiwan's Madonna
24 Mar 00 | Taiwan Election
Taiwan's man of the people
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