Taiwan president says willing to meet China's Xi 'for peace'

AFP , Friday 27 Apr 2018

Tsai Ing-wen
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen Reuters

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen said Friday she would be willing to meet her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to mend fraying ties in the wake of a landmark summit between the leaders of the two Koreas.

Relations between Taiwan and China have deteriorated since Tsai came to power in May 2016. Beijing still sees the self-ruling island as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

China is deeply suspicious of Tsai's traditionally pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, and has cut off official communications with Taipei as the Taiwanese president refuses to accept that the island is part of "one China".

When asked on Friday if she would consider meeting Xi given the way the inter-Korean summit unfolded, Tsai appeared to offer an olive branch to China and said her government "would be willing to do anything that is helpful for... peace and stability".

A meeting with the Chinese leader could take place "without any political pre-condition and on an equal footing", she added.

Under those principles, "I believe no Taiwanese leader would refuse," she told reporters.

Tsai said she hopes the summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the North's leader Kim Jong Un is a step towards greater regional stability.

Her Beijing-friendly predecessor Ma Ying-jeou oversaw an unprecedented thaw in China-Taiwan relations during his 2008-2016 presidency, which culminated with a historic 2015 meeting with Xi in Singapore.

Ma's government acknowledged the so-called "1992 consensus" that there is only "one China" without specifying whether Beijing or Taipei is its rightful representative. China has repeatedly urged Tsai to adopt the same position.

Beijing has recently stepped up pressure on her government with a string of air and naval exercises around the island, including live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait last week.

It has also used its clout to isolate the island, luring away its diplomatic allies and blocking it from attending major international events.

Chinese officials said the drills were conducted to safeguard China's territorial sovereignty and warned that they would take further action if Taiwan's "(pro) independence forces continue to wantonly take rash actions".

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