China sends 'special envoy' inviting Taiwan to Apec summit in Beijing

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan confirmed on Wednesday that a "special envoy" from China had delivered a letter inviting Taiwan to an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Beijing, as hopes faded of a historic meeting between their leaders at the event.

The local media said the envoy was Mr Gong Qinggai, deputy director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, who flew to Taipei to deliver the invitation.

The Foreign Ministry said special envoys had been sent in the past to Taiwan to deliver invitations to meetings of the Apec forum.

Ministry spokesman Anna Kao did not name the envoy. And Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou's office declined to say who from Taiwan would attend the summit.

Mr Wang Yu-chi, chairman of Taiwan's top China-policy planning body the Mainland Affairs Council, for the first time in February urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to meet Mr Ma on the sidelines of the meeting in November.

President Ma voiced the hope again last week.

China responded coolly, fearing any such leaders' meeting at an international forum could give the impression that Beijing recognises the island as an independent state.

Taiwanese leaders in the past were barred from Apec summits due to objections from China, which regards the island as part of its territory. Taiwan was represented by senior economic advisers or business leaders.

But Mr Lien Chan, vice-president from 1996 to 2000, represented Taiwan at the 2008 Apec meeting - the highest-level official ever to do so.

This was seen as a reflection of warming ties between Taipei and Beijing, following the election of the China-friendly Mr Ma earlier that year. Mr Ma was re-elected in 2012.

China still considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary. The island has ruled itself since splitting from the mainland in 1949 at the end of a civil war.