White House cautious on historic China-Taiwan meeting in Singapore

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the US welcomed steps taken to try to improve cross-strait relations.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the US welcomed steps taken to try to improve cross-strait relations.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House on Tuesday (Nov 3) gave a cautious welcome to plans for the leaders of Taiwan and China to meet for the first time in more than half a century.

"We would certainly welcome steps that are taken on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to try and reduce tensions and improve cross-strait relations," said spokesman Josh Earnest.

"But we will have to see what actually comes out of the meeting."

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Singapore on Saturday (Nov 7), Mr Ma's office said, in what will be the first meeting between leaders from the two rivals since they split at the end of a civil war in 1949.

Beijing still considers the island part of its territory awaiting reunification.

The US spokesman reiterated that Washington's "One China" policy has not changed.

The White House has long opposed any military moves towards reunification and has laid its hand on the scales to ensure a military balance between Taiwan and China.

The Xi-Ma meeting comes ahead of January elections in Taiwan.

Mr Ma's relatively Beijing-friendly Kuomintang is widely expected to lose to the more China-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party.