China and Taiwan agree to strengthen diplomatic ties after historic talks

Deal marks rapprochement after 60 years of tensions

China and Taiwan, at odds for more than six decades, agreed at historic talks on Tuesday to set up representative offices as early as possible, though sensitive political issues like a formal peace treaty were not up for discussion.

The talks between Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Minister Wang Yu-chi and China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun, who heads the Taiwan Affairs Office, were the first since the 1949 creation of the People's Republic of China.

They mark a big step towards expanding cross-strait dialogue beyond economic and trade issues.

China's ruling Communist Party considers Taiwan a renegade province and has never ruled out the use of force to bring the island under its wing after taking control of the mainland at the end of a civil war. But economic ties have grown considerably in recent years.

Taiwan's Wang described his meeting with Zhang, in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, as “an unimaginable occasion in earlier years”, China's official Xinhua news agency reported.

“Being able to sit down and talk is a really valuable opportunity, considering that the two sides were once almost at war,” Wang said.

The mainland's Zhang told Wang that both sides should have “a little more imagination” regarding relations.

“We meet under great attention and expectations and bear great responsibilities,” Zhang said.

Xinhua later reported that the two sides agreed to set up representative offices “as early as possible” for the two semi-official organisations which deal with ties between the two.

Taiwan and China also agreed to deepen economic ties and “appropriately deal with” issues on medical care for students in either place.