TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou met Thursday with the most senior Chinese official to visit the island in nearly 60 years, state-run media reported.
Ma spent about five minutes with Chen Yunlin, the president of the Association of Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, at a Taipei hotel, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency of China. They exchanged gifts.
Authorities in Taiwan mobilized about 3,000 police officers amid reports that Ma's political opponents planned a rally to protest the meeting, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.
Chen is in the midst of an historic five-day visit to Taiwan as he heads a 60-member delegation that has been meeting with its counterpart, the Straits Exchange Foundation.
"I feel like I'm standing at the crossroads of history," Chen said ahead of the visit, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported.
The talks will avoid volatile political issues and focus instead on economic cooperation, state media reported.
"The mission is clear and well-defined," Chen said. "No political issues pertaining to cross-Straits relations will be involved, nor will Taiwan's internal political affairs."
Chen signed a deal around on Thursday with Taipei Mayor Au Long-bin to swap rare wildlife with Beijing, The Associated Press reported. Chen offered two pandas to Taiwan in exchange for a Formosa sika deer and a Formosa serow, a goat-like animal, AP reported.
Chinese and Taiwanese officials agreed in June to set up permanent offices in each other's territories, in the first formal talks between the two sides in almost a decade. The Beijing talks also resulted in an agreement for weekend charter flights.
Cross-Straits talks between the two delegations began in 1993, a year after China and Taiwan informally agreed that the two sides belonged to "one China" -- although they did not describe what that meant, and both sides were free to use differing interpretations.
After that, the dialogue was delayed for five years over cross-strait tensions.
A second meeting in 1998 was held in Shanghai, but Beijing canceled a 1999 meeting when then-Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui proposed that Taiwan and China treat each other as separate states.
Taiwan's new president, Ma Ying-jeou, has rejected the push for independence. Although Ma opposes unification with China, he campaigned on promises of seeking closer ties to the mainland, particularly seeking for Taiwan some of the benefits of China's robust economy.
Taiwan separated from China after the communists victory in the Chinese civil war in 1949. About 2 million Nationalists Chinese fled to Taiwan and set up a government there.
Beijing has always considered the island a part of China and has threatened to go to war should Taiwan declare formal independence.
All About Taiwan • China • Ma Ying-jeou • Hu Jintao