Ma hopes Beijing will use peaceful means to resolve issues

Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan's president, speaks during a news conference following a meeting with Xi Jinping, China's president, in Singapore, on Nov 7, 2015.
Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan's president, speaks during a news conference following a meeting with Xi Jinping, China's president, in Singapore, on Nov 7, 2015.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Giving reporters a glimpse into a highly anticipated summit between the leaders of Taiwan and China, Mr Ma Ying-jeou said that he hoped Beijing can use peaceful means, and not force, to resolve cross- strait issues.

Mr Ma emphasised that he had raised some of the most pressing China-related issues for the Taiwanese electorate as the popularity of his ruling Kuomintang plummets, partly over his Beijing-friendly policy.

Describing his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping as "cordial and very positive", Mr Ma praised Mr Xi for being "pragmatic, flexible and candid" during their discussion of cross-strait issues.

"We hope that this spirit can be reflected in the handling of cross-strait ties in the future," he said.

In a press briefing after his hour-long meeting with Mr Xi, Mr Ma said he had challenged the Chinese leader over China's missiles - Taiwan's defence ministry says the mainland has 1,500 trained on the island.

LIKE OLD FRIENDS

Even though this is the first meeting, we feel like old friends. Behind us is history stretching for 60 years. Now before our eyes there are fruits of conciliation instead of confrontation.

MR MA

The Taiwanese leader also highlighted that he proposed the establishment of a hotline between the two sides, to which Mr Xi responded positively.

In his bid to transform Taiwan into a hub for higher education in the Asia-Pacific, Mr Ma urged China to let more Chinese college students further their studies in Taiwan.

"I have been pushing for this for many years, but the results are less than ideal," he said, adding that Vietnam, Thailand, India and Indonesia are sending their university lecturers to the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology using public funds.

For years, Taiwan has been marginalised on the international stage by Beijing's insistence that other countries not recognise the Taipei government.

"When our government officials took part in regional economic integration and international events, there were interferences. We hope that there will be less hostility in these areas.

"We hope these things do not continue," said Mr Ma, who told Mr Xi that both sides should exercise "mutual respect".

Mr Xi did not address reporters after the summit, leaving that to Mr Zhang Zhijun, who heads China's Taiwan Affairs Office.

No agreements appear to have been reached between the two sides that still refuse to formally recognise each other's legitimacy.

Mr Ma has expressed hope that the meeting could be a step towards normalising cross-strait relations, but no further plans for closer contact emerged.

"I made it known that I hope both sides will bury the hatchet.

"We want peace, not war," said Mr Ma.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 08, 2015, with the headline 'Ma hopes Beijing will use peaceful means to resolve issues'. Print Edition | Subscribe