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KMT Leader Kicks off Historic Visit

The chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT), or Chinese nationalist party, arrived in the eastern city of Nanjing on Tuesday afternoon. It is his first visit to the mainland since the party fled to Taiwan in 1949.

"This visit has been too late, but we finally took the first historic step," said the 68-year-old Lien Chan upon his arrival. Heading a 60-member delegation, he had called his visit "a journey of peace."

The visit assumes added significance as tensions have escalated across the Taiwan Straits in recent years due to the island province's authorities' push for secession from China.

Lien's delegation landed at Lukou Airport around 4:40 PM and received a red carpet welcome from Chen Yunlin, director of the Taiwan Work Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and local officials.

A crowd of several hundred people, many of whom were domestic and foreign journalists, cheered and applauded as a smiling and hand-waving Lien emerged from the passenger cabin.

"Nanjing is not far away from Taipei in distance, but it has taken more than 60 years for me to revisit this city," said Lien in a brief speech at the airport. Now capital of the coastal province of Jiangsu, Nanjing was once the national capital when the KMT ruled between the 1920s and 1940s.

Lien, accompanied by his wife Lien Fang-yu and several KMT vice-chairpersons, has come at the invitation of the CPC Central Committee and its general secretary, Hu Jintao. During his eight-day visit, Lien will go to Beijing, Shanghai and his birthplace Xi'an in northwest China.

His visit will also include the first meeting in 60 years between the top leaders of the CPC and KMT, as he is expected to meet Hu in Beijing on Friday. The last such rendezvous took place in August 1945, when then party leaders Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-Shek met in southwest China's Chongqing City to negotiate.

The trip, arranged shortly after China's top legislature, the National People's Congress, enacted an anti-secession law in March, was criticized by the Taiwan authorities and secessionists on the island as an "act of selling out Taiwan".

Some staged protests at Taoyuan Airport in Taipei on Tuesday morning, when Lien and his delegation were embarking on their journey.

About 96 percent of mainland respondents in a telephone poll welcomed Lien's arrival, while a survey in Taiwan found that 40 percent supported it, with 20 percent against.

Calling reunification as being "where China's core interest lies," the CPC has said it is willing to talk with any political parties in Taiwan as long as they uphold the "one-China" principle.

James Soong, chairman of Taiwan's People First Party (PFP), also accepted an invitation from Hu last week and is expected to head a delegation to the mainland from May 5 to 12.

Li Yuanchao, secretary of the Jiangsu Provincial Committee of the CPC, met and hosted a banquet for Lien and his delegation yesterday.

Speaking highly of Taiwan business people's contribution to Jiangsu's social and economic development, Li said Jiangsu was one of the mainland regions that had developed the closest relationship with Taiwan, adding that the provincial capital Nanjing also had "a special connection" with the KMT.

Lien said the KMT had long followed Dr. Sun's instructions of working for public welfare, philanthropy and saving the nation. It had especially upheld the requirements of "peace, endeavor and saving China" written by Sun on his deathbed in 1925, to help find a way out for the people and take a responsible attitude toward history.

"How to promote the establishment of mutually beneficial and peaceful cross-Straits relations for a win-win situation is something we are all concerned about and a goal we all hope to be attained at an early date," said Lien.

(Xinhua News Agency April 27, 2005)

KMT Chairman Arrives in Nanjing for Visit
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