China agreed Monday to send a top envoy to Taiwan next week for economic negotiations despite recent protests on the self-ruled island against improving ties with Beijing.
Pro-independence supporters protested a visit last week by a Chinese diplomat to prepare for the talks. The envoy was pushed to the ground by demonstrators, shouting, "Taiwan does not belong to China."
The unrest continued Saturday, with the opposition Democratic Progressive Party holding a mass rally to protest the Nov. 3 visit of Chen Yunlin, chairman of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits.
Since taking office in May, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has promised to improve relations with China and overturn his predecessor's stridently anti-China and pro-independence platform.
But the opposition has accused Ma of moving too close to China, arguing Beijing could use the negotiations to assert its control over Taiwan.
Early Monday, Lai Shin-yuan, chairwoman of Taiwan's Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council, sought to allay those fears.
The talks with Chen will be limited to economic issues, including the introduction of direct cargo flights and an expansion of current weekend passenger flights to daily service, she said.
"We will seek to resolve problems in a pragmatic way," Lai said. "There won't be any secret deals."
Meanwhile, Chen's deputy, Zheng Lizhong told a televised news conference that Taiwan has promised to ensure the envoy's "safety and dignity" during the five-day visit.
Chen will hold talks with his Taiwanese counterpart, Chiang Pin-kung, chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation, Zheng said.
Chiang's deputy, Kao Koong-liang, said Taiwan will give Chen a "passionate welcome."
China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, but Beijing continues to claim the island as part of its territory and has threatened to attack if Taiwan moves to formalize its independence.