A delegation of Taiwan's opposition Nationalist Party is visiting mainland China for the first time since the end of the Chinese civil war 56 years ago. The visit is aimed at easing tensions triggered by China's recent passage of an anti-secession law.
The visit by Kuomintang Vice Chairman Chiang Pin-kung comes a few days after hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese demonstrated in Taipei against the mainland's new anti-secession law. Many in Taiwan and elsewhere fear Beijing may use the law to justify attacking the island if it makes moves China considers are steps toward formal independence.
Officially, the purpose of the trip is to mark the 80th anniversary of the death of Kuomintang founder Sun Yat-sen, who led the movement that ended thousands of years of imperial rule in China. However, speaking as he left Taipei Monday, Mr. Chiang said he hopes the visit will help ease tensions that have flared over the law's passage.
The party official says he hopes to see the situation return to what it was just a few weeks ago during the Chinese New Year holiday, when both sides allowed the first nonstop flights to operate across the Taiwan strait in more than five decades.
His five-day trip marks the first time a high-ranking Kuomintang delegation has officially set foot on the mainland since the Nationalist government fled to Taiwan following its defeat by communist forces in 1949.
Regional political analysts predict the delegation will get a warm welcome. Unlike President Chen Shui-bian's Democratic Progressive Party, which is pro-independence, the Kuomintang says it is open to the possibility of future reunification with the mainland - a stance that Beijing views more favorably.
Bao Tzong-ho is a politics professor at National Taiwan University in Taipei.
"It's possible for Chinese Communist Party leaders to meet officials of the KMT and for both sides to try to communicate with each other and maybe try to find a solution to issues," he said. "That's impossible between the CCP and DPP, but it's still feasible between the CCP and the KMT."
Analysts say increased dialogue is likely to please the KMT's supporters, including some Taiwanese businesspeople who are concerned that heightened tensions might disrupt the growing trade between Taiwan and the mainland.
The KMT delegation visits the Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Nanjing before heading to Beijing on Wednesday.