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TAIPEI (Reuters) - Directors of rival Chinese art museums in Taiwan and China will trade visits next year to scope out each other's disputed treasures, part of a bigger picture of improved political ties, a Taipei official said on Wednesday.
The first ever visits will give officials at Beijing's National Palace Museum, in the Forbidden City, a close-up look at some of the 654,000 pieces of jade, scrolls, pottery and bronze ware the Nationalist Party took away to Taiwan during the civil war.
Taiwan National Palace Museum officials will head to Beijing, tentatively in mid-February, for a chance to examine some of the 600,000 not-so-spectacular pieces of art that were left behind and are now stored in China's capital.
China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, when Mao Zedong's Communists won the Chinese civil war and Chiang Kai-shek's KMT fled to the island.
Beijing has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.
Ties have improved since China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou took office in Taipei earlier this year, spearheading landmark trade and transit negotiations. Chinese President Hu Jintao called for more cultural exchanges between the two sides in a policy speech on Taiwan on Wednesday.
"We hope art and culture won't get affected by political interference," said Sandy Liu, who works in the director's office at the Taipei museum.
Bu the museum directors will discuss joint exhibitions and research, not exchanges, which are still prohibited, Liu said.
Reporting by Ralph Jennings; Editing by Nick Macfie