China, Taiwan reach historic accords on trade, fighting crime, immigration

April 29, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

SINGAPORE -- Semiofficial delegations from China and Taiwan agreed in talks yesterday to sign an unprecedented set of accords aimed at establishing closer ties between the longtime rivals.

A joint accord pledging cooperation on trade, technology exchanges, copyright protection, anti-crime efforts and repatriation of illegal immigrants was expected to be signed today, in addition to a separate agreement on setting up a system of regular meetings between the two sides. Also to be signed were accords on verification of official documents and compensation for lost mail.

Top representatives of the two sides celebrated their achievement with toasts over a friendly dinner last night, according to Chiu Chin-yi, spokesman and key negotiator for Taiwan's delegation.

"Generally speaking, the atmosphere was quite nice, friendly, and we drank a few 'bottoms up' of rice wine and maotai [a potent Chinese grain liquor]," Mr. Chiu said at a news conference. "The very significant thing is that both sides, after more than 40 years of separation, now sit down and talk business."

The two days of semiofficial talks here were the highest-level contact between Communist and Nationalist Chinese since the 1949 Communist victory in China's civil war.

Mr. Chiu described the talks as "not of a political nature" but rather concerned with "technical, administrative and civilian matters."

"But still, it gives a hope that in the future talks things could be easier, because this time set a model," he said. The signing of documents "gives us a very good chance to test whether the agreements can be faithfully carried out."

Tang Shubei, China's spokesman and main negotiator, said at a separate news conference that "our two organizations' agreeing to sign these four agreements was a historic moment."

From the 1920s through the 1940s, Nationalists and Communists went through a series of bloody conflicts and tenuous alliances. The Nationalists, who once ruled all China, fled to Taiwan in 1949.

Since then, both the Communist government in Beijing and the Nationalists in Taipei have maintained that Taiwan is part of China, but they have argued over which government should rule the entire nation.

Both sides have said the meeting in Singapore will promote economic ties between Taiwan and the mainland, and that this could create more favorable conditions for eventual reunification. Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which favors permanent independence for Taiwan, has expressed alarm that the talks could have the effect of undermining Taiwan's sovereignty.

Taiwan's delegation to the talks is headed by Ku Chen-fu, chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation, a semiofficial organization set up to provide a channel for negotiations with Beijing. China's delegation is headed by Wang Daohan, chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait.

Both men have close personal and political ties with top leaders of their government, but the main work during the talks was handled by Mr. Chiu and Mr. Tang.

The main point of contention during the talks was over Taiwan's desire for firmer legal guarantees concerning investment on the mainland by business people from the island. Such investment, which is estimated to have reached at least $7 billion, is now conducted only indirectly, through companies set up outside Taiwan.

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