Wen offers Taiwan talks


Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao made a more concrete offer of peace today to Taiwan, saying Beijing was willing to discuss direct transport links with the island.

He said any issue could be discussed including the "three links" - direct trade, transport and mail deliveries - which Taiwan banned decades ago due to security fears.

"Based upon the foundation of the 1992 consensus, we can revive discussion and negotiations," Mr Wen told reporters on the sidelines of an environment summit in Laos.

Beijing regards self-governing Taiwan as a breakaway province which should be reintegrated - by force if necessary.

The 1992 consensus refers to an agreement between Beijing and Taipei to acctheir own interpretations of the "one China" principle and both sides held landmark talks in Singapore in 1993.

However, official talks between China and Taiwan have been suspended since 1999, when Taiwan's former president, Lee Teng-hui, redefined ties as "special state-to-state" relations.

But with last weekend's election of Ma Ying-jeou, a more China-friendly president for Taiwan, some analysts believe more than half a century of hostility and tension might finally end.

"We can increase economic, trade and cultural exchange ... I think it won't affect Hong Kong. Economic exchange across the [Taiwan] Strait and among the three places will enhance Hong Kong's economic development and economic development across the Taiwan Strait," Mr Wen said.