|ARATS chief Chen Yunlin leaves for Taiwan|
Chen Yunlin, chief of the Chinese mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), left Beijing Monday morning for Taipei on a five-day visit. He is the first ARATS chief to visit the island.
Chen is expected to meet with Chiang Pin-kun, chief of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF). It will be the second meeting between ARATS and SEF heads in almost 10 years. The first was held in Beijing in June.
State Council Taiwan Affairs Office Director Wang Yi was at the airport to see Chen off.
"The visit of ARATS chief to Taiwan is of historical significance and is a key step marking the development of cross-strait relations," Wang said at the airport.
He said cross-strait exchanges had failed to meet expectations despite positive results achieved through previous negotiations.
"The mainland is open to and respects opinions of people of all circles and is ready to work with friends from Taiwan to keep up and improve the negotiations," he said.
The ARATS and SEF were founded in 1991 and 1990 respectively. They are authorized by the mainland and Taiwan to handle cross-strait civilian exchanges.
Wang said equal consultation and cooperation between the ARATS and SEF was mutually beneficial and should not be hindered by concerns as to which side makes concessions or suffers losses.
Despite many unsolved problems and complicated factors, Wang said "the ice freezing cross-strait relations has been broken and the blocked road is now open".
Relations were embarking on a track of peaceful development and started to show positive momentum, he said. "We should cherish, maintain and develop the hard-earned situation."
Wang said building mutual trust and seeking common ground while reserving differences for mutual benefit is the principle that mainland has followed to address across-strait issues.
"We will try our best to seek benefits for compatriots across the strait, seek peace for the region, continue to push forward the peaceful development of cross-strait relations and firmly maintain the basic and long-term interests of the Chinese nation," he said.
Chen is expected to arrive in Taipei at noon. Prior to his visit, he told reporters that his talks with SEF chairman Chiang would focus on economics rather than political issues.
On Monday afternoon, Chen is scheduled to visit the widow of Koo Chen-fu, the former SEF chairman who passed away in 2005.
The official talks between leaders of the ARATS and SEF will beheld on Tuesday morning. The two organizations will sign agreements in the afternoon and hold press conferences, according to the schedule.