Taiwan VP-Elect to Meet Chinese Leader
Associated Press Writer
Taiwan's vice president-elect will hold informal discussions with China's leader at a trade forum on the mainland in the highest-level meeting ever held between the two historic rivals, an official said Sunday.
Vincent Siew will not discuss any sensitive political issues when he meets Chinese President Hu Jintao at the three-day Boao Forum, which opens Saturday in Hainan province, his spokesman Wang Yu-chi said.
Wang noted that Siew will only be attending as head of the Common Market Foundation, a private group he set up to advocate closer trade ties with the mainland. Siew was elected vice president in polls last month, but won't be sworn in until May 20.
Taiwan's United Daily News quoted unidentified Chinese officials as saying authorities had agreed to the meeting so Hu could use the rare occasion to discuss matters of common interest with Taiwan's incoming government.
Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949, and leaders from the two sides have never met. Beijing fears such a meeting would be seen as implicitly conferring a separate status on Taiwan. China still considers the island a part of its own territory to be reunified by force if necessary.
President-elect Ma Ying-jeou, of the opposition Nationalist Party, has proposed opening talks with China on launching direct air links and relaxing trade and investment restrictions to help bolster Taiwan's flagging economy.
Beijing refused to deal with outgoing President Chen Shui-bian for the past eight years because he rejected China's insistence on unification with Taiwan.
A Nationalist official said the Hu-Siew meeting could help improve relations between the two rivals.
"Having some dialogue could help reduce misunderstanding and ease confrontation," said Jason Hu, mayor of Taichung, Taiwan's third-largest city.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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