Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou pledged yesterday that the island's relations with the mainland would not be harmed by allegations that a senior Taiwanese official had leaked secrets to Beijing.
Ma said that there had been a steady development in relations between the two sides since he came to power six years ago and this would not be changed by a single incident.
Chang Hsien-yao, the former deputy minister of the Mainland Affairs Council that handles relations with Beijing, was sacked earlier this month over alleged breaches to national security.
Prosecutors are investigating claims that he leaked information during negotiations with mainland officials.
Chang has denied the allegations.
Ma said yesterday: "Cross-strait relations are like a big tree growing up from a small sprout that needs to be repeatedly watered and fertilised by the gardener.
"If there is any bad worm to wreak havoc on the tree, there should be proper control to allow the tree to grow normally," he said.
He urged the media to stop speculating about the allegations against Chang and wait until the investigation was over.
The president came to power in 2008 pledging to improve relations with Beijing.
Taiwan and the mainland have been adversaries since Nationalist forces fled to the island in 1949 after losing the civil war to Communist forces.
The Mainland Affairs Council said yesterday that cross-strait merchandise trade talks would begin in Taipei on September 10, despite media speculation that the mainland had halted further negotiations because it was unhappy with the spying allegations.
A services trade pact between Taiwan and the mainland sparked student protests earlier this year, amid fears among some that closer ties with Beijing would harm the island's democracy.