Taiwan's ex-VP Lien Chan to meet China's Xi Jinping

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan's former vice president Lien Chan will meet China's Communist Party chief Xi Jinping in Beijing next week in the highest-level cross-straits meeting since Xi took office, it was announced on Thursday.

Lien, leading a delegation of some 30 politicians and business leaders on a four-day trip, will leave on Sunday and meet Xi the following day at the latter's invitation, said Kuo Su-chun, a spokeswoman for Lien.

"The meeting is significant as it will be the highest-level between the two sides since Xi assumed the leadership" of the party, Kuo said.

"They have known each other for a long time and they will discuss any topic of interest."

Xi is also due to take over as president in March in China's highly choreographed, once-in-a-decade leadership change.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war but Beijing still claims the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification.

Lien became the first leader of the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) party to visit China in 56 years when he met President Hu Jintao in 2005 to formally end hostilities with the communists.

Ties with China have improved markedly since the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou became Taiwan's president in 2008 on a Beijing-friendly platform.

He was re-elected in 2012 for a final four-year term.

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