8 Nov 2015

China, Taiwan presidents hold historic talks

10:06 am on 8 November 2015

The leaders of China and Taiwan have held historic talks in Singapore - their first in more than 60 years.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou shook hands at the start of the talks, which were seen as largely symbolic.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (right shakes hands with Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou before their meeting

Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou before their meeting. Photo: AFP

China views Taiwan as a breakaway province which will one day be reunited with the mainland, but many Taiwanese see it as independent and are concerned at China's growing influence.

"Both sides should respect each other's values and way of life," Mr Ma said as the talks began at a luxury hotel.

Mr Xi told the Taiwanese leader: "We are one family."

The meeting "has opened a historic chapter in the cross-Strait relations, and history will remember today", he added.

The meeting took place in neutral territory on the sidelines of a state visit by Mr Xi to Singapore.

Relations between China and Taiwan have improved under Mr Ma since he took office in 2008, with better economic ties, improving tourism links, and a trade pact signed.

The two sides split in 1949 when the Kuomintang lost to the Chinese Communist Party in the civil war and set up a new government in Taiwan.

Mr Ma described the talks as "positive and friendly", but no major agreements or deals appear to have been reached.

Mr Ma said in advance that the issue of the South China Sea disputes, which has dominated recent concerns in the region, would not be brought up.

According to Taiwan's central news agency, Mr Ma proposed reducing hostility across the Taiwan Strait, expanding exchanges and establishing a cross-strait hotline.

He said this was part of consolidating the "1992 consensus" - the agreement under which both sides recognise the principle of "one China" but define it in their own ways.

Similar remarks were made by Mr Xi, who said upholding the consensus would help "the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation".

It is not entirely clear why the meeting has happened at this time, as neither side has explained.

- BBC

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