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Taiwan gets ready for Chinese pandas

Taiwan is ready to accept a pair of giant pandas that China has long promised the island, despite opposition warnings the offer may be a communist propaganda ploy, officials said Sunday.
The 4-year-old pandas were scheduled to board a Taiwanese jetliner Tuesday for the 3-1/2 hour flight from Chengdu airport to Taipei after being transported in two large iron crates from their bushy habitat in Sichuan province.
Beijing first offered the pandas to Taiwan in 2005 hoping they would strengthen Taiwanese public support for reuniting with the mainland, an offer rejected by the island's former pro-independence leaders.
Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou, however, has tried to nurture closer ties with the mainland and accepted the pandas as a goodwill gesture.
At the sprawling hillside Taipei Zoo, a two-story-high glass and rock house will serve as the animals' new home. After a monthlong quarantine the exhibit will be open for public viewing around the Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on Jan. 26.
"We are ready for the pandas, and will get them a supply of some 170 pounds (80 kilograms) of their favorite bamboo a day," said zoo official Chao Ming-chieh, adding the animals were expected to double the zoo's number of visitors to 5 or 6 million a year.
He disputed suggestions that the pandas would win Taiwanese support for uniting with the mainland.
"Children and many others simply love the cute pandas, and they care nothing about any likely political implications," he said.
The giant panda is unique to China and serves as an unofficial national mascot, giving such gifts political overtones. China regularly sends the animals abroad as a sign of warm diplomatic relations or to mark breakthroughs in ties.
The pair are named "Tuan Tuan" and "Yuan Yuan," which when linked mean "reunion" in Chinese.
Cheng Wen-tsang, spokesman of Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party, said China's ultimate goal is to win Taiwanese political support.
Sending the pair of pandas to Taiwan "will not cover up China's military threat against us," Cheng said.
Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949, and China has repeatedly warned that any Taiwanese moves to formalize its de facto independence could be met with war.

Updated : 2021-06-16 05:54 GMT+08:00