TAIPEI (Reuters) -The mayor of Taipei will visit Shanghai at the end of this month for an annual city forum, his office said on Friday, a trip that will take place against the backdrop of frozen ties between the Taiwanese and Chinese governments.
While China has refused to speak to Taiwan's government since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, believing she is a separatist, city-to-city exchanges had continued until interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, Tsai's administration has cautiously been trying to reopen less sensitive people-to-people links since it lifted pandemic-related border controls late last year, aiming to engender goodwill with China, and a group of Shanghai officials made a low-key visit to Taipei in February.
Taipei Mayor Chiang Wan-an, from the main opposition party the Kuomintang, which traditionally favours close relations with China, will go to Shanghai on Aug. 29-31 for the Taipei-Shanghai City Forum, which was first held in 2010.
The Taipei city government said Chiang, a rising Kuomintang star, would lead the delegation to the forum, the theme of which this year is "new trends, new development".
The Kuomintang has pushed to resume contacts with China since pandemic controls were lifted, saying that dialogue was needed now more than ever given the tensions over Taiwan.
China, which claims the island as its territory, has been carrying out military activities near Taiwan, including regularly sending fighter jets into the air space around it.
"When the situation across the Taiwan Strait is tense, we have a need even more for communication and exchanges, and the two cities forum can be that kind of platform," Chiang told reporters in Taipei.
Taiwan's ex-President Ma Ying-jeou, who remains a senior Kuomintang member, in March became the first sitting or former Taiwanese leader to visit mainland China since the Communist revolution in 1949, saying he hoped to bring about peace and improve relations.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Robert Birsel)