China's Xi, Taiwan's Siew meet on Apec sidelines: Xinhua

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Sunday held talks with a top Taiwan official ahead of a regional economic summit in Indonesia, state media reported, in the latest sign of warming ties between the former rivals.

Mr Xi met Vincent Siew, Taiwan's former vice-president, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, which starts Monday, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The first such China-Taiwan meeting at the Apec forum was in 2008 when tensions between the two started thawing.

Mr Xi emphasised that both sides should keep pushing for peaceful development of relations, Xinhua said.

He added that the idea of "both sides of the Strait are of one family" should be advocated, referring to the Taiwan Strait, the body of water dividing the two sides.

Mr Xi also said that both sides should strengthen communication and cooperation and work together to rejuvenate the Chinese nation.

Mr Xi has been head of China's ruling Communist Party since last November and became state president in March.

Mr Siew, honorary chairman of the Taiwan-based Cross-Straits Common Market Foundation the island's special envoy to Apec, had said on Tuesday ahead of the meeting that it would be brief and focused on bilateral economic and trade issues along with increasing regional economic integration.

He also said he would not deliver any special message to Mr Xi from Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, and discussions would not touch on "things in the future".

Taiwan's leaders are barred from Apec summits due to objections from China, which claims sovereignty over the island, and are represented instead by senior economic advisers or business leaders.

China still considers Taiwan part of its territory even though the two sides split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.

But ties have improved markedly since Mr Ma of the China-friendly Kuomintang party took power in 2008 on a platform of promoting trade and reconciliation with the mainland.

Mr Ma was re-elected in January 2012.

In June 2010 Taiwan and China signed the landmark Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, a pact widely seen as the boldest step yet towards reconciliation.

Taiwan has been a major investor in China in recent years, providing more than US$100 billion (S$125 billion) in financing according to some estimates, as well as technological know-how.