Taiwan sees exchange with China's leader at APEC as positive

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 21, 2016 12:17 AM

TAIPEI (Reuters) - A brief exchange between representatives from Taiwan and China at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' meeting is a "positive" development for relations across the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan's Presidential Office said on Monday.

China cut an official communications mechanism with Taiwan in June after new President Tsai Ing-wen refused to commit to the "One China Principle" that says Taiwan is part of the mainland. Beijing sees Taiwan as a breakaway province it has vowed to reclaim by force if necessary.

Taiwan has since repeatedly urged Beijing to resume talks and exchanges.

Taiwan's envoy James Soong had what Taiwanese media described as a "friendly" exchange with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the APEC meeting in Lima, Peru, at the weekend.

"We always welcome any interaction that would help both sides understand each other without political pre-conditions," Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang said.

Huang described the brief discussion as "a positive thing".

"We are glad to see it," he said.

While China's Taiwan Affairs Office did not answer telephone calls to seek comment, Taiwan media quoted a spokesman for the policy-making body as saying the encounter was a "natural, simple exchange of greetings" in a side room at the venue.

Relations between the mainland and Taiwan have deteriorated since the island's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party took power in May.

APEC meetings have traditionally offered an opportunity for senior officials from Taiwan and China to meet because the group categorizes Taiwan as a member economy, although not a nation.

(Reporting by Faith Hung; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Paul Tait)