Little chance of Taiwan and China leaders meeting at Apec

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou on Wednesday named a former vice president to represent him at the upcoming Apec summit in Beijing, effectively ending hopes of a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

The idea of an unprecedented Ma-Xi meeting was floated in Taiwan in February before a historic trip to Nanjing by Taiwan's minister in charge of mainland affairs Wang Yu-chi - the first official contact between Taiwan and former bitter rival China in more than six decades.

But Taipei announced Wednesday it would send Vincent Siew to discuss trade issues with regional leaders and promote Taiwan's bid to join more regional trade blocs at the summit next month, the presidential office said in a statement.

Siew has attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum five times as Ma's special envoy and also while he was the economic affairs minister.

Taiwanese officials, including Ma himself, had raised the prospect of a presidential meeting on the sidelines of Apec even though China gave it the cold shoulder.

Beijing fears a public meeting of leaders from Taipei and China at an international forum would reinforce the idea of "two Chinas", an intolerable scenario for the mainland.

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

Last month, Taiwan's Premier Jiang Yi-huah admitted that hopes of such a meeting were fading as various messages from Beijing indicated that "they do not hope to arrange such a meeting at the Apec summit".

Relations have improved significantly since Ma, from the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party, came to power in Taipei in 2008. He was re-elected in January 2012 for a final four-year term.

Historically Taiwan's leaders are barred from Apec summits due to objections from China, which claims sovereignty over the island. Taiwan is represented instead by senior economic advisers or business leaders.