Tsai appoints pro-China politician to represent Taiwan at Asia-Pacific leaders' meet next month

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing Wen has appointed a pro-China politician to represent her at a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders next month.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing Wen has appointed a pro-China politician to represent her at a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders next month.PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Taiwan President Tsai Ing Wen on Wednesday (Oct 5) 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, the leader of the People First Party, a splinter group from the China-friendly opposition Nationalists, is to represent Ms Tsai at a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grouping set for mid-November in Peru.

"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 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.

Chiang Kai Shek's KMT fled to the island in 1949 following defeat in a civil war against the Communists.

Mr Soong, once the English interpreter for Mr Chiang, is reviled by hardliners in Ms Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which traditionally advocates an independent Taiwan, and who are a key support base for Ms Tsai.

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.

Since coming to power, Ms Tsai's approval rating in opinion polls has dipped as Taiwan's trade-reliant economy has struggled to recover momentum, hit partly by a fall-off in mainland Chinese tourists.

Last month, a UN aviation agency snubbed Taiwan by not inviting it to a meeting in Canada, a sign of the pressure exerted by China.