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China, Taiwan swap spies in sign of improving relations

Taiwan says it has exchanged spies with longtime foe China for the first time. The exchange took place as a goodwill gesture ahead of the first meeting between the two countries' leaders earlier this month.

Taiwan announced on Monday it had swapped spies with China, in a sign of easing tensions between the two rivals.

The exchange took place before Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping met in early November, the first meeting between Chinese and Taiwanese leaders since the island broke away from the mainland in 1949.

Taiwan said on Monday it hoped the exchange would help improve relations with China.

"This is based on a mutual goodwill gesture delivered by the Ma-Xi meeting," presidential spokesman Charles Chen said in a statement. "President Ma hopes cross-strait mutual exchanges can continue and make more concrete achievements in the future."

China handed over Chu Kung-hsun and Hsu Chang-kuo, two military intelligence officers in prison since 2006, while Taiwan released Chinese double agent, Li Zhihhao. Li was serving a life sentence.

China considers Taiwan a breakaway province and has never ruled out military force to retake the island, a prospect that

could put Beijing in direct conflict with the United States.

But tensions have eased since Ma came to power in 2008 promising to improve ties across the straits, culminating in the November encounter.

The detente has sparked protests and a political backlash against Ma's ruling Kuomintang party.

Watch video 01:40

China-Taiwan summit sparks anger in Taiwan

cw/tj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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