Pandas lead bid for peace

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

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 Taiwanese 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.

Hundreds of security guards and police were on watch at Shuangliu airport in Chengdu, Sichuan province, ahead of the operation to move the pandas. 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.

The pandas 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 30000 visitors a day.

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

The security around the pandas reflects the sensitivity of the issue

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 gracious gesture, but one that fails to address their main concern - the military threat from their powerful neighbour.

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

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