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China and Taiwan hold landmark high-level talks

China and Taiwan have held their highest-level talks since their acrimonious split 65 years ago. They come after years of fence-mending efforts between their two governments.

A Taiwanese delegation of some 20 officials headed by Taipei's Mainland Affairs Council minister, Wang Yu-Chi, arrived in Nanjing, China, on Tuesday for the historic talks during a four-day trip.

"The visit is not easy. It's the outcome of a years-long interaction between the two sides," Wang said before leaving Taiwan.

"I hope it goes smoothly," he added, saying Tuesday's meeting would aim to build mutual trust and resolve some practical issues.

The agenda for the talks was expected to cover economic ties, medical protection for Taiwanese students studying in China and exchange of humanitarian visits. Wang said that no document would be signed after the meeting, according to Taiwan's state-run Central News Agency.

It is the first visit to China by Wang, who is responsible for Taiwan's relationship with mainland China.

Rocky relationship

Beijing has regarded Taiwan as a renegade province since it split from China in 1949 after a civil war that cost millions of lives, and still aims to reunite the island with the mainland, by force if necessary

Since 1949, Taiwan and China have been governed separately, with both claiming to be the true government of China.

In recent years, the two neighbors have made cautious steps toward economic reconciliation, even signing a landmark economic agreement in June 2010.

Direct flights between the two sides have also been restored under Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party chaired by President Ma Ying-jeou, which accepts the "One China" principle.

However, until Tuesday all negotiations had been carried out through proxy bodies that had been unable to deal with the sovereignty dispute that lies at the heart of the problematic relationship between the two sides.

Taiwan has become increasingly isolated diplomatically over the decades, but still receives military supplies from the United States and has enjoyed a long economic boom.

tj/ipj (AFP, dpa)