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Chen invites Hu to visit Taiwan

May 3, 2005 at 5:14 AM

TAIPEI, Taiwan, May 3 (UPI) -- Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian said Tuesday he hoped Chinese President Hu Jintao would visit Taiwan, following opposition leader Lien Chan's mainland visit.

"I hope he can come to see for himself whether Taiwan is a sovereign, independent country, and what our 23 million people have in mind," CNN quoted Chen as saying.

Kuomintang Party Chairman Lien left the mainland Tuesday after an eight-day visit seen by his supporters as a bid to ease cross-Straits tensions, and by his detractors as an attempt to undermine the democratically elected government of Taiwan.

As goodwill gestures at the conclusion of Lien's trip, China offered to lift restrictions on mainland tourists visiting Taiwan and to scrap tariffs on some Taiwanese fruit imports.

Taiwan residents made 3.7 million trips to the mainland in 2004, while only 145,000 mainlanders visited Taiwan, China Daily reported.

China also offered to send a pair of giant pandas to Taiwan as a gift. Taiwan is unlikely to accept them.

Chen said Monday he would send a message to Hu with James Soong, the leader of the People First Party, who is scheduled to tour the mainland and meet Hu next week.

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