Taiwan appoints pro-China politician as Apec envoy

Pro-China politician James Soong will represent Ms Tsai at the upcoming Apec meeting.
Pro-China politician James Soong will represent Ms Tsai at the upcoming Apec meeting.

TAIPEI • Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen yesterday appointed a pro-China politician to represent her at a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders next month, offering an olive branch to Beijing amid an impasse in relations.

Official communications between Taipei and Beijing have halted since Ms Tsai, distrusted by China as the leader of a pro-independence party, took power in late May, and refused to stick to Beijing's principle that Taiwan is part of China.

Mr James Soong, leader of the People First Party, a splinter group of the China-friendly opposition Kuomintang, is to represent her at a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) grouping in Peru next month.

"Soong's rich academic background, experience and contacts will enable him to precisely convey to the international community the all-round status of our development," the Presidential Office said in a statement.

Apec meetings have traditionally offered an opportunity for senior officials from Taiwan and China to meet because the grouping categorises Taiwan as a member economy, not a nation.

China views the self-ruled Taiwan as a renegade province and forbids moves toward independence, never having renounced the use of force to take it back if necessary.

Mr Soong, once the English interpreter for former Kuomintang leader Chiang Ching-kuo, is reviled by hardliners in Ms Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party, which traditionally advocates an independent Taiwan.

But Ms Tsai is also seen as a shrewd negotiator who has remained unfazed by Beijing's cold shoulder, urging instead for talks to resume.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2016, with the headline 'Taiwan appoints pro-China politician as Apec envoy'. Print Edition | Subscribe