1st LD: Cross-Strait affairs chiefs meet in Kinmen, stressing no setbacks in ties

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KINMEN, May 23 (Xinhua) - The mainland's Taiwan affairs chief Zhang Zhijun on Saturday called for efforts to avoid U-turns and self-inflicted setbacks to ties across the Taiwan Strait.

"Both sides should be determined to protect cross-Strait relations from U-turns and setbacks, which are also the common aspirations of compatriots across the Strait," Zhang said when meeting with Taiwan's mainland affairs chief Andrew Hsia in Kinmen County, Taiwan.

Zhang, director of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, arrived on the island of Kinmen, which is two kilometers from the coastal mainland city of Xiamen, on Saturday for a two-day visit.

"It took only half an hour to travel here from Xiamen, but exchanges between the two cities had suffered for about half a century because of civil war," Zhang said.

"The furthest distance is not separation by vast oceans, but when your compatriots are within reach, yet you cannot see each other," he said.

The former battlefield is now the frontline of exchanges, cooperation and mutual development, he said, adding that the story of Xiamen-Kinmen could serve as "an epitome of cross-Strait relations."

Since 2008, the two sides have created a new environment for the peaceful development of cross-Strait ties on the common political foundations of the 1992 consensus and opposition to "Taiwan independence", Zhang said.

While stressing that the mainland is consistent on key principles and its stance on cross-Strait ties, Zhang said differences should not hinder efforts to solve these differences through equal negotiations.

Zhang called on cross-Strait affairs departments to enhance exchanges, consolidate the common political foundation of the 1992 consensus, boost peaceful development of ties, and achieve more to benefit people on both sides.

Relations between the mainland and Taiwan stalled when the Kuomintang (KMT) forces, led by Chiang Kai-shek, fled to Taiwan in 1949 after civil war. Cross-Strait ties have improved since KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou won Taiwan's leadership election in 2008, with dozens of agreements of cooperation signed.

Cross-Strait affairs chiefs were involved in mutual visits last year and set up a regular communication mechanism amid warming ties.

In a major breakthrough, Zhang made his long-awaited trip to Taiwan in June last year as the first Taiwan affairs chief from the mainland to do so in 65 years.

Zhang will also meet with the Kinmen County head and talk to people from all walks of life to hear their opinions on cross-Strait exchanges. Endi

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