Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou will meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Singapore on Saturday, in what will be the first meeting between leaders from the two rival nations since the end of a civil war in 1949.
|Taiwan-China relations since 1949|
The two presidents will “exchange views on cross-strait issues” Ma’s spokesman Charles Chen said on Tuesday, 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, he said.
The Chinese Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office also confirmed the news of the historic meeting, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
The surprise meeting follows a gradual warming of relations with Beijing since Ma of the China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) party came to power in 2008.
Taiwan’s main opposition political party, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has called on Ma to calm anxiety over his planned meeting, and assure people it will not affect Taiwan’s status.
Joseph Wu, secretary-general of the DPP, told Reuters that the failure to notify key parliamentary leaders in Taiwan about the meeting planned in Singapore meant it does not meet the principle of democratic oversight or transparency.
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.
“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 on Wednesday where more details will be released as to the significance of the meeting.
The White House gave a cautious welcome.
“We would certainly welcome steps that are taken on both sides of the Taiwan strait to try and reduce tensions and improve cross-strait relations,” said spokesman Josh Earnest.
“But we will have to see what actually comes out of the meeting.”
Tuesday’s announcement was unexpected after Ma’s hopes for a meeting with Xi had previously been dashed despite improved relations.