The EU has welcomed the first meeting in 70 years between the leaders of China and Taiwan.
“Saturday’s first-ever meeting in Singapore […] is an encouraging step, demonstrating the level of trust that has been built through the ongoing process of rapprochement,” according to a statement the European External Action Services (EEAS).
President Xi Jinping of China met with President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan in Singapore on Saturday (7 November) and their brief talks started with a minute long handshake so that reporters and photographers could immortalize the moment.
The summit which some called ‘historic’ is the highest point in a seven-year rapprochement between Taipei and Beijing that began in 2008, when Ma Ying-jeou took office, vowing to end the political strife.
“Nothing can separate us,” Xi told his Taiwanese counterpart in brief public remarks following the handshake. “We are one family … We are brothers who are still connected by our flesh even if our bones are broken.
The meeting happened the day after the closing of an ASEAN summit at which the EU urged all parties to settle peacefully territorial disputes in the South China Sea, where Washington has challenged Beijing’s efforts to bolster its claims through an island-building programme.
EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said the European Union was an “interested” party in a dispute pitting China against Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia over control of a crucial seaway.
“The EU looks forward to the continuation of the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations, to the benefit of the people on both sides of the Strait,” said a EEAS spokesperson after the Singapore meeting.
Taiwanese President Ma, who will step down next year following a presidential election on 16 January, has worked relentlessly towards the improvement in relations with Beijing, which still regards democratically ruled Taiwan as a renegade province.
Ambassador Tung Kuoyu from the Taiwan mission to the EU welcomed the meeting saying it opens a new chapter of the improvement of the cross-strait relations, which displays the two leaders’ goodwill and willingness to continue the reconciliation process beginning from the 2008 with the aim of building a lasting peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
“It is not only a milestone in the long-term relationship between the two sides, it helps regional peace and security as well,” Tung Kuoyu added.
The United States also welcomed the meeting between the two leaders and said Washington encourages “further progress” in the “historic improvement” in relations across the Taiwan Strait in recent years.
Cross-Strait relations between mainland China and Taiwan, which are separated by the Taiwan Strait in the west Pacific Ocean, and in particular between their respective governments--the People's Republic of China, abbreviated as PRC, commonly known as China, and the Republic of China, abbreviated as ROC, commonly known as Taiwan, have been tensed for decades.
In 1949, with the Chinese Civil War turning decisively in the Communists' (CPC) favour, the ROC government led by the Kuomintang (KMT) retreated to Taipei, in Taiwan, while the CPC proclaimed the PRC government in Beijing.
Since then, the relations between China and Taiwan have been limited, tensed and instable.
- July 2016: 20th anniversary ASEM summit in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.