Taiwan's President Ma hopes for historic summit with China

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou gestures during a press conference in Taipei on March 29, 2014. Taiwan's President said on Wednesday he hopes to hold a historic summit with China's leader, but acknowledged that conditions are not yet right, amid d
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou gestures during a press conference in Taipei on March 29, 2014. Taiwan's President said on Wednesday he hopes to hold a historic summit with China's leader, but acknowledged that conditions are not yet right, amid domestic opposition to his pro-Beijing policies. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Taiwan's President said on Wednesday he hopes to hold a historic summit with China's leader, but acknowledged that conditions are not yet right, amid domestic opposition to his pro-Beijing policies.

President Ma Ying-jeou said the November gathering in Beijing of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum - one of the few international groups in which Taiwan is a member - would be an ideal time for him to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping as the setting would "greatly minimise the sensitivity."

"The meeting should bring benefit to Taiwan and to cross-strait relations.

"So far, I have said that the APEC meeting would be a good occasion for the leaders to meet because the setting seems to be tailor-made," Mr Ma told the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington by video-conference.

But Mr Ma conceded that Beijing "does not take a positive view of this request" and said that a meeting should not take place unless it is both "needed by our nation and supported by our people."

Protesters recently agreed to end a three-month sit-in of Taiwan's parliament as they sought to force the withdrawal of a service trade agreement with China.

Student leader Chen Wei-ting charged that Mr Ma was dictatorial by pushing through the agreement secretly and not listening to alternative opinions.

Mr Ma belongs to the Kuomintang party, which fled to Taiwan and set up its government after losing the mainland's civil war in 1949. Beijing considers Taiwan to be a province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

Mr Ma has pushed to ease tensions with China since his election in 2008 through closer trade and cultural relations. Taiwan's opposition has voiced fear of a non-military Chinese takeover and has instead emphasised the self-ruling democracy's separate identity.

Taiwan's official in charge of China policy in February traveled to Nanjing to meet his counterpart in the first talks between the two governments since their split.

The landmark sign of reconciliation came even as China's relations grow more testy with most other neighbors, especially Japan and the Philippines.