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Chinese pandas arrive in Taiwan

Two giant pandas have arrived in Taiwan from China, a gift from Beijing to a 
self-governing island it considers part of Chinese territory.

Together their names (Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan) mean reunion, underscoring hopes 
that their arrival in Taiwan will spur unity between the two sides.

But the gesture is not welcomed by everyone in Taiwan.

The pandas were first offered three years ago, but were rejected by the 
president at the time.

That decision was reversed after Taiwan's nationalists - the Kuomintang - won 
the presidency in May.

Since then, diplomatic and economic links have improved. Last week daily 
passenger flights, new shipping routes and postal links between the two sides 
were established for the first time in six decades.

Steamed buns

Hundreds of security guards and armed police were on watch at Shuangliu airport 
in Chengdu, Sichuan province, ahead of Tuesday's operation to move the pandas, 
reports the BBC's Chris Hogg in Beijing.

A 20-strong team of animal experts had been in the region for 10 days to 
prepare for the bears' relocation - and they took special steamed corn buns, 
fresh bamboo and even motion sickness pills for the pandas for their trip.

On arrival, they will be quarantined for a month before being taken to their 
new glass and rock enclosure in Taipei zoo, where they are expected to attract 
about 30,000 visitors a day.

Military threat

Despite the publicity surrounding China's gesture, some in Taiwan caution that 
its significance should not be overstated, our correspondent says.

The island's President Ma Ying-jeou recently called again on the mainland to 
withdraw hundreds of missiles that are pointing at Taiwan.

For many Taiwanese the pandas are a nice gesture, but one that fails to address 
their main concern - the military threat from their more powerful neighbour.

Taiwan's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party criticised the panda 

"Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan means a union, which perfectly matches Beijing's goal 
of bringing Taiwan into its fold," it said.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since the end of the Chinese civil 
war in 1949, but China claims sovereignty over Taiwan.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/12/23 09:33:49 GMT


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