TAIPEI: Taiwan’s minister in charge of China affairs said on Tuesday he plans to visit the mainland next month in a landmark trip that marks the first official contact between the two former bitter rivals in six decades. Wang Yu-chi, chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, which formulates the island’s China policy, is scheduled to fly to the mainland on February 11 to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Zhang Zhijun, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office chief. The meeting in Nanjing in China’s eastern Jiangsu province symbolizes persistent efforts to normalize relations in recent years after a decades-long freeze. “The trip has crucial implications for further institutionalization of the ties between the two sides of the Straits,” Wang said. Long-frosty relations between Taiwan and its giant neighbor have improved significantly since Ma Ying-jeou of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party came to power in 2008. He was re-elected in January 2012. Since Taiwan’s split from China 65 years ago, Beijing has refused to renounce the possibility of using force to take back the island, which it regards as a rebel region awaiting reunification with the mainland.