- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2005

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The chief of Taiwan’s opposition Nationalists will travel to China later this month for the first encounter with a leader of that country’s Communist Party in more than five decades, party officials said yesterday.

Nationalist Party leader Lien Chan declined to give details of what he would discuss with Chinese President Hu Jintao when they meet in Beijing on April 29, but he characterized his trip as a “voyage of peace.”

“Our aim at this time is to bring peace for both sides of the Taiwan Strait, stability for both sides and to lay some positive groundwork for the whole future,” Mr. Lien said.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 at the end of a bitter civil war when the Nationalists fled to the island as the Communist Party took control of the mainland.

The Nationalists lost power in Taiwan, formally known as the Republic of China, when Chen Shui-bian won the 2000 presidential elections. Mr. Chen has warned Mr. Lien against signing agreements with Beijing and has asked him for a meeting to discuss his plans for the trip.

But Mr. Lien said yesterday that he was traveling to China as a private citizen and didn’t need to hold a meeting with Mr. Chen.

Mr. Chen harshly criticized a visit to China last month by one of Mr. Lien’s deputies, Chiang Pin-kung. The government has said Mr. Chiang could be charged with treason because he signed 10 agreements on trade issues with Beijing.

Mr. Lien’s weeklong trip comes as relations between Taiwan and China have turned tense. Last month, China’s rubber-stamp legislature approved a law authorizing an attack if Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory, tries to make its de facto independence permanent.

The Nationalists say Mr. Lien’s meetings with Mr. Hu and other officials in China could reduce tension and lay the foundation for improved relations. But government officials have said Beijing is only out to divide the island by playing the opposition off against the president.

The Nationalists and communists share a desire to eventually unite Taiwan with the mainland and a dislike for Mr. Chen.

Party officials yesterday also gave more details about the schedule for Mr. Lien’s Apr. 26-May 3 trip. His itinerary will include visits to the grave of Nationalist Party founder Sun Yat-sen in Nanjing, Mr. Lien’s birthplace of Xi’an and the international business center of Shanghai, where he will meet Taiwanese investors, officials said.

In China’s capital on April 29, Mr. Lien will give a speech at Beijing University.

Mr. Lien will be accompanied by about 50 relatives and party officials.

Another opposition leader, James Soong of the smaller People First Party, has been invited to visit China next month, but his schedule hasn’t been finalized.

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