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ARATS chief arrives in Taiwan, starts milestone trip
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The ARATS chief Chen Yunlin shakes hands with Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation chairman Chiang Pin-kung at a Taipei hotel, November 3, 2008. Chen's visit marks the first ever meeting between leaders of the ARATS and SEF in Taiwan. [caijing.com.cn]

The ARATS chief Chen Yunlin arrived in Taipei on Monday to begin a five-day milestone visit to Taiwan.

Chen's visit marked the first meeting in Taiwan between leaders of the ARATS and the Taiwan-based SEF.

The talks were aimed at deepening cross-Straits economic cooperation "for the benefit of compatriots across the Straits," according to mainland authorities.

The meeting was significant for the "institutionalization of ARATS-SEF consultations" and the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations, said Xu Bodong, a well-known Beijing-based scholar on the Taiwan issue.

Chen said after arriving here that tasks for the talks were "clear and simple" and "for the good of the people on both sides".

He said the talks would not involve political issues. "No cross-Straits political issues will be involved, nor will the island's internal political affairs."

Each subject of the consultations would benefit both sides, and the ARATS would "continue to work with the SEF with a positive and pragmatic attitude to seek common ground and satisfactory results through equal consultation," Chen said.

On Tuesday morning, Chen was expected to hold talks with SEF chairman Chiang Pin-kung, their second meeting in less than six months.

They were to discuss cross-Straits direct shipping, air transport, postal services, food safety and tourism, Chen said in a speech after landing at the Taoyuan International Airport.

The two organizations would also host seminars for experts to exchange views on financial cooperation in light of the international financial crisis, he said.

As the consultations were closely linked with public livelihoods and economic development across the Straits, analysts believed Chen's visit would be a "win-win" trip.

Chiang said Chen's visit to Taiwan was historic as well as a key step in achieving peace and mutual economic benefit.

He believed their talks would yield fruitful results.

But Chen's visit was "a late appointment," Chiang said. "In the history of cross-Straits communications, the moment came after six decades."

Chen said: "President Wang Daohan and Chairman Koo Chen-fu worked all out for the moment to come, but their wishes could not come true."

In April 1993, then ARATS President Wang and then SEF Chairman Koo held a historic "Wang-Koo meeting" in Singapore. It was the first public meeting between leaders of the two organizations. They signed four agreements on economic and trade cooperation.

"The two have passed away, but they must feel great relief if they can see today's visit from the afterlife," Chen said.

On Monday afternoon, Chen also visited Koo Yen Cho-yun, the widow of Koo Chen-fu, former SEF chairman who passed away in 2005.

"Today, SEF chairman Chiang Pin-kung and I realized the long-term wish of our predecessors. We will carry on their cause and try our best to work for the peaceful development across the Straits," he said.

Positive response

Taipei stocks rose 2.55 percent on Monday on hopes that the historic meeting would further improve cross-Straits relations.

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