TAIPEI (Reuters) - Negotiators from Taiwan and China met for their first high-level talks on the island in 60 years on Tuesday, with deals on direct flights, cargo routes and food safety expected to be signed later in the day.
Negotiators Chen Yunlin of China and P.K. Chiang of Taiwan met to chart future rounds of talks, which are tentatively scheduled for early 2009, a day after Chen landed on the self-ruled island that his government claims as its own.
Chen, the highest-level Chinese official to land in Taiwan since 1949, is due to sign 13 agreements between the two sides despite protests from Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which favors putting distance between the island and China and a formal declaration of independence.
Communist China has claimed sovereignty over democratic Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's forces won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's KMT fled to Taiwan. Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.
The negotiators, who met in a festive environment at a heavily guarded hillside hotel, have indicated they will not discuss knotty political issues during the visit through Friday.
Ties have warmed rapidly since China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May.
"We don't have to like China, but we need a way to deal with our neighbor," said Taipei-based political risk consultant Raymond Wu.
Thousands of demonstrators led by the DPP spent a night on the streets of central Taipei, accusing Taiwan of selling out to China and criticizing Chen's red-carpet treatment. They plan to camp out until Thursday.
Chen said he had "heard the protesters" and that "some day we will get their consent," local media reported on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Ralph Jennings; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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