Page last updated at 15:20 GMT, Sunday, 21 December 2008

Taiwan readies for panda arrival

Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan were offered to Taiwan three years ago
Yuan Yuan and Tuan Tuan were offered to Taiwan in 2005

Taiwan is preparing for the arrival of two pandas from China, saying it is ready to accept a gift the opposition has called a propaganda ploy.

The four-year-old pandas - named Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, which together mean "reunion" - were first offered to Taiwan three years ago.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, though relations have warmed recently.

Bamboo diet

The pandas are due to arrive in Taipei on Tuesday after a 3-1/2-hour flight from Chengdu airport.

They would have been transported in two large crates from their bushy habitat in Sichuan province.

After a month in quarantine, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan will live in Taipei Zoo, where officials say they will be fed 80kg (170lb) of bamboo a day.

They should go on show to the public around the time of the Chinese New Year.

In return, China will receive two Formosan serows, goat-like mammals unique to Taiwan.

China often gives pandas, unique to the country, to other countries as a sign of goodwill or to mark a breakthrough in relations.

Cheng Wen-tsang, spokesman of Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party, said the pandas were given with political undertones.

He said that sending the pair of pandas to Taiwan "will not cover up China's military threat against us," Associated Press reported.

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