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Tsai Ing-wen

Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen willing to meet Xi Jinping ‘for peace and stability’

Island’s president appears to offer olive branch to Beijing in wake of historic summit between North and South Korea

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 April, 2018, 3:09pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 April, 2018, 10:32pm

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday she would be willing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping “for peace and stability” in the wake of a landmark summit between the leaders of the two Koreas.

Relations between Taiwan and the mainland 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.

Beijing 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”.

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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 mainland leader could take place “without any political precondition and on an equal footing”, she added.

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

Tsai said she hoped the summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the North’s leader Kim Jong-un would be a step towards greater regional stability.

Commenting on the Koreas summit, the foreign ministry in Taipei said Taiwan “is willing to actively contribute to and work with the international community to promote the realisation of peace, stability and prosperity in the region”.

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Tsai’s Beijing-friendly predecessor Ma Ying-jeou oversaw an unprecedented thaw in Beijing-Taiwan relations during his 2008-16 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. The mainland 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.

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

Mainland 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”.