Taiwan confirmed yesterday that a "special envoy" from the mainland had delivered a letter inviting Taiwan to November's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing.
But hopes faded of a historic meeting between their leaders at the event.
The invitation was delivered to the government of President Ma Ying-jeou by Gong Qingai, deputy director of the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office on August 29, Taipei's foreign ministry said.
Some local news media said the delivery of the invitation by a deputy director was not in line with protocol because the invitation should be sent to a state leader personally instead of through other officials.
But the ministry stressed there was nothing wrong in the delivery. Thirteen years ago, when Chen Shui-bian of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party was president, the mainland, which was the host country at that time, merely faxed a "notice" rather than invitation to Taiwan, asking the island to send a representative to the meeting.
Wang Yu-chi, chairman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, urged President Xi Jinping in February to meet Ma on the sidelines of the November gathering. Ma voiced the hope again last week.
But Beijing responded coolly, fearing any such leaders' meeting at an international forum could give the impression Beijing recognised the island as an independent state.
Taiwanese leaders were barred from previous Apec summits due to objections from the mainland, which regards the island as part of its territory.
Taiwan was represented by senior economic advisers or business leaders.
But Lien Chan, vice-president from 1996 to 2000, represented Taiwan at the 2008 Apec meeting, becoming the most senior official to do so.
This was seen as a reflection of warming ties between Taipei and Beijing, following the election of the mainland-friendly Ma earlier that year. Ma was re-elected in 2012.
Ma's office declined to say who from Taiwan would attend November's summit.
Meanwhile, Taiwanese Economics Minister Duh Tyzz-jiun said at an Apec ministerial meeting in Beijing yesterday that cross-strait negotiations on a agreement on trade in goods would be held "somewhere near Taipei" next week, the Central News Agency reported. But the report said it still depended on a consensus between both sides' semi-official negotiators.
The trade talks were originally scheduled for last month but were postponed amid the abrupt departure of former Taiwan senior mainland affairs official Chang Hsien-yao for allegedly leaking information about negotiations.
But Duh denied the delay had anything to do with Chang's case, the report said, adding that Duh claimed both sides needed more time to prepare.