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Taiwan urges China to resume talks “without preconditions”

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The Taiwan government on Sunday urged China to resume bilateral exchanges “without preconditions” after China announced it would once again allow tourists from Fujian Province to travel to the Taiwan-controlled Matsu Islands, Central News Agency (CNA) reported.

The eased travel restrictions were announced on Sunday after a meeting was held between China’s deputy minister of culture and tourism Rao Quan and a legislative delegation led by Kuomintang (KMT) caucus whip Fu Kun-chi.

Asked about the decision later in the day, Taiwan’s Interior Minister, Lin Yu-chang, said that “equitable exchanges” between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are a “shared expectation and consensus” among the people of Taiwan. Lin stated that such exchanges should take place without pre-conditions or any type of political considerations to avoid suspicions about the motives.

Travelling between Taiwan and China has remained largely frozen for the past three years, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. China stopped independent travel to Taiwan on August 1, 2019, citing the poor state of cross-strait ties. The two rules continue to remain in effect, according to CNA report.

Meanwhile, Taiwan has refused to lift its COVID-era restrictions on the entry of most categories of Chinese travellers. Taiwan allows its citizens to travel independently to China, but not in tour groups arranged by Taiwanese travel agencies.

China’s decision to ease its travel restrictions is applicable only to Fujian residents visiting Matsu and not to Taiwan-controlled Kinmen, Central News Agency reported. Notably, Kinmen has not been included in the decision as Chinese and Taiwanese authorities have not yet resolved a dispute over a February 14 incident.

On February 14, Taiwanese Coast Guard vessel pursued and collided with a Chinese speedboat that entered restricted waters near Kinmen, CNA reported, citing Taiwanese news outlets. After the collision, the Chinese speedboat capsized which claimed the lives of two of the four men on board.

The Chinese government strongly condemned Taiwan for the death of two men while Taiwan maintained that its Coast Guard was acting within the law to chase off a boat within its territorial waters. Kinmen prosecutors have been carrying out investigation into the case.

Notably, China considers self-ruled democratic Taiwan as a part of its territory.