By DEBBY WU, Associated Press Writer Debby Wu, Associated Press Writer – 17 mins ago
TAIPEI, Taiwan – The presidents of Taiwan and China exchanged direct messages for the first time Monday since the two sides split 60 years ago — the latest sign of their warming relations.
According to a Nationalist Party statement, Chinese President Hu Jintao congratulated Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou on his election Sunday as party chairman, and told Ma he hopes his Chinese Communist Party can work with Ma's Nationalist Party in the best interest of both sides.
"I hope both our parties can continue to promote peaceful development in cross-strait relations, and help bolster mutual trust between the two sides in political affairs," Hu's telegram said.
In return, Ma called for both sides to work on peace.
"We should continue efforts to consolidate peace in the Taiwan Strait and rebuild regional stability," Ma said.
Taiwan and China usually communicate through semiofficial channels, with Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation talking with its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait. The Straits Exchange Foundation is partly funded by the Taiwanese government.
While Ma's telegram addressed Hu as the Communist Party's general secretary, Hu simply called the Taiwanese leader "Mr. Ma," in an apparent attempt to avoid touching upon the sensitive Taiwan sovereignty issue.
Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949, but Beijing continues to claim the island as party of its territory. China is determined to bring Taiwan back into its fold, by persuasion if possible, by force if necessary.
Since Ma's election last May, however, relations have improved. Under Ma, the two sides have resumed high-level dialogues and forged closer trade relations.
Ma has helped facilitate direct regular air and sea links between the sides and allowed Chinese companies to invest on the island.
Hu and Ma previously exchanged telegrams directly once in 2005, when Ma was elected opposition chairman.