- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2009

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) | The Taiwanese and Chinese presidents swapped messages Monday, the first such exchange since the two sides split amid civil war 60 years ago.

They did so in their capacity as ruling party leaders, rather than as heads of state, to skirt the disputed issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty.

It was the latest sign in rapidly improving relations between the once bitter enemies. In the 14 months since Taiwan’s leader, Ma Ying-jeou, took power, those ties have morphed from mutual suspicion and antipathy to bilateral expressions of amity and understanding, amid thriving trade and investment.

According to a statement from Mr. Ma’s Nationalist Party, Chinese President and Communist Party chief Hu Jintao sent a telegram to the Taiwanese leader congratulating him on his election Sunday as party chairman, and told him he hopes his party can work with the Nationalists in the best interest of both sides.

“I hope both our parties can continue to promote peaceful development in cross-strait relations, and help bolster mutual trust between the two sides in political affairs,” Mr. Hu’s telegram said, according to the statement. China’s state-owned Xinhua News Agency confirmed that Mr. Hu sent the note.

In return, Mr. Ma called for both sides to work toward peace.

“We should continue efforts to consolidate peace in the Taiwan Strait and rebuild regional stability,” Mr. Ma said, according to the Nationalists, in his reply.

It was the latest installment in the gradually warming ties between the Nationalists and Communists. The two sides fought an on-again-off-again civil war for more than two decades on the Chinese mainland before the defeated forces of Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan in 1949.

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