TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ A leading Taiwanese negotiator returned home Friday after concluding two days of meetings in China, the first directs talks between the rivals in three years.

Though the Beijing session paved the way for a visit by the island's top negotiator, the sides remain far from restarting formal negotiations.

China claims sovereignty over Taiwan and has made it clear that wants talks on topics related to their reunification, something Taipei says should wait.

Taiwan has been separated politically from Beijing since a civil war ended in 1949 with the communist takeover of the Chinese mainland.

Shortly before leaving Beijing Friday, Jan Jyh-horng, an official of the semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation, called his visit a ``significant development.''

He said he expects another meeting soon with Li Yafei, a deputy secretary general of the foundation's Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait.

They would put the final touches on plans for a trip by Koo Chen-fu, foundation chairman, to Beijing later this year, Jan said.

Koo might attend a conference as China suggests, or lead a delegation of the foundation's directors to meet ARATS officials, Jan told reporters.

That would be the first time the sides' top two negotiators have met since 1993, when talks between them were launched.

Taiwan hopes those contacts will eventually lead to a resumption of talks. But Taiwanese officials say they don't expect to sit down at the negotiating table before next year.

Taipei wants to continue the earlier talks on subtantive issues like resolving fishing disputes, leaving aside sticky questions of sovereignty.