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China and Taiwan hold government-to-government talks for first time in 65 years

By Katie Hunt, CNN
February 12, 2014 -- Updated 0321 GMT (1121 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW Taiwan and China agree to regular communication
  • Nanjing meeting marks the first government-to-government contact since 1949 split
  • Taiwan's top China policymaker Wang Yu-chi will meet counterpart Zhang Zhijun
  • Group says two Taiwan-based reporters have been excluded from covering trip

(CNN) -- Taiwan and China held their highest level talks for more than six decades Tuesday, marking the first government-to-government contact since the pair's acrimonious split in 1949.

Wang Yu-chi of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), which oversees the island's China policy, met with his mainland Chinese counterpart Zhang Zhijun, of China's Taiwan Affairs Office.

After the meeting, China's state news agency Xinhua said the two sides had agreed to open a regular communication channel.

"We should both be resolute to not let cross-strait relations suffer any more twists and turns, and never let it (the relationship) go backward," Zhang was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

Previous contact between the two sides has been conducted through semi-official foundations or through political parties, not by government ministers acting in their official capacities.

"Being able to sit down and talk today was quite unimaginable in the past," Xinhua quoted Wang as saying.

In a statement, Taiwan's MAC said that Wang had invited Zhang to visit Taiwan to better understand society and popular sentiment.

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said the visit had " extraordinary significance," according to the island's Central News Agency.

On his departure from Taipei, Wang said the visit would not be "easy" and the two sides would not sign any specific agreement.

The meeting took place in Nanjing, which was the seat of government under the Kuomintang or Nationalist party before a civil war with the Chinese Communists forced Nationalist forces to flee to Taiwan in 1949.

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Ever since, the island and mainland China have been governed separately.

The exclusion of two Taiwan reporters from covering the meeting has soured the start of Wang's historic visit, which is expected to last until Friday.

Two journalists from Taiwan's Apple Daily and Radio Free Asia were excluded from a delegation of more than 80 reporters accompanying Wang, according to Freedom House, a press freedom watchdog.

"The Chinese government's refusal to grant access to these journalists reflects two important trends -- the Communist Party's expansion of its tactics for influencing media from Hong Kong to Taiwan, and the government's use of visa denials as a way to punish overseas news outlets for critical coverage," said Sarah Cook, senior research analyst at Freedom House.

Taiwan's Central News Agency said Wang would address protecting the freedom of the press at the meeting.

Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway province and has never ruled out the use of force to achieve reunification.

Taiwan also calls itself the Republic of China.

Relations between the two sides have improved since Ma, of the Kuomintang party, came to power in Taiwan's 2008 elections.

CNN's Beijing bureau contributed to this report

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