Wary Taiwan museum withholds treasures from China

TAOYUAN, Taiwan Thu Feb 19, 2009 9:31am GMT

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TAOYUAN, Taiwan (Reuters) - A Taiwan museum will not lend any of its art treasures to China, from where they were originally taken, despite a goodwill loan of similar artefacts from Beijing, museum officials said on Thursday.

Taipei's National Palace Museum contains 650,000 pieces of Chinese art, much of which was taken to Taiwan from the Forbidden City in Beijing when Nationalist forces fled the mainland at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

The Forbidden City, which has 600,000 not-so-spectacular pieces which were left behind, said this week it would lend Taipei 29 Qing Dynasty pieces, a sign of a broader thaw in relations between the two sides.

Directors for the two museums reached nine agreements covering future exchanges this week in Beijing but no deal on loaning relics to China, Taipei museum Director Chou Kung-shin told a news conference.

Taiwan fears that China may not return any treasures it sends over, a museum publicist said.

"Senior leaders from both sides will need to talk further about this," Chou said after returning from Beijing. "That would be a second phase of our engagement."

China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. But ties have improved since China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May.

(Reporting by Ralph Jennings; Editing by Nick Macfie and Sanjeev Miglani)

(ralph.jennings@thomsonreuters.com; +886 2 2500 4882; Reuters messaging: ralph.jennings.reuters.com@reuters.net)

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