Taiwan leader Ma to hold historic meeting with Chinese President Xi: Officials

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou will meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Singapore on Saturday.

AFP| Updated: Nov 04, 2015, 05:49 AM IST
Taiwan leader Ma to hold historic meeting with Chinese President Xi: Officials

Taipei: Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou will meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Singapore on Saturday, Ma's office said, in what will be the first meeting between leaders from the two rivals since the end of a civil war in 1949.

The two presidents will "exchange views on cross-strait issues" Ma's spokesman Charles Chen said today, referring to the stretch of water separating mainland China and Taiwan.

The intention of the visit is to "secure cross-strait peace" but no agreement will be signed and there will be no joint statement, he said.

The surprise meeting follows a gradual warming of relations with Beijing since Ma of the China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) came to power in 2008.

Beijing still considers the island part of its territory even though the two sides have been governed separately since Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and his KMT forces fled to Taiwan after losing the civil war to Mao Zedong's communists.

Chen said Ma would leave for Singapore on Saturday where he will meet Xi.

"The purpose of President Ma's visit is to secure cross-strait peace and maintain the status quo of the Taiwan Straits," Chen said in a statement.

"No agreement will be signed, nor any joint statement be released," he said, adding that Ma will hold an international press conference on Thursday.

The head of Taiwan's top China policy decision-making body, the Mainland Affairs Council, will hold a press conference Wednesday where more details will be released as to the significance of the meeting.

There has been no reaction from Beijing so far.

Today's announcement was unexpected after Ma's hopes for a meeting with Xi had previously been dashed despite improved relations.

He had hoped to meet Xi at an APEC meeting in Beijing in November but said China had refused.

"This is a milestone in cross-Strait relations," said Professor Chao Chun-shan, an expert in mainland affairs at Tamkang University in Taipei.

"It should be helpful for the stabilisation of the region," he told the Apple Daily.

But some opposition political parties expressed concern over the meeting and called on supporters to protest Wednesday outside parliament.

While ties have warmed under Ma, public sentiment has turned against closer relations as fears over Beijing's influence grow.