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International relations

Taiwan's presidential hopeful proposes peace talks with Xi

Former New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu   © Reuters

TAIPEI (Kyodo) -- A presidential candidate of Taiwan's main opposition, pro-unification party proposed Tuesday that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet on an outlying island for peace talks to promote a more peaceful and stable Taiwan Strait.

Former New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu, who has declared his candidacy for the presidential primary of his Nationalist Party (KMT), said if he were to be elected president next year, he would push a meeting with Xi on the outlying Kinmen Islands and issue a joint statement on promoting peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Mainland China and Taiwan have been governed separately since KMT troops led by Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island after losing a civil war to the Communist forces under Mao Zedong in 1949.

Taiwan formally calls itself the Republic of China, but Beijing considering the island to be renegade province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

Former President Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT proposed in his re-election campaign in 2012 that both sides sign a peace agreement, but was forced to ditch the plan after voters and opposition politicians expressed concern over what they considered an effort to fast track cross-strait political negotiations that could threaten Taiwan's sovereignty.

Speaking live on his Facebook video broadcast Tuesday, Chu lamented the cross-strait relations which he described as "frozen" since President Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party took office in May 2016.

China has unilaterally suspended official contact with Taipei and even banned visits to the self-ruled island by Chinese tour groups since Tsai assumed office mainly due to her refusal to heed Beijing's calls to accept its bottom line for talks, namely the so-called "1992 consensus."

It refers to a tacit understanding reportedly reached in that year by Taiwan's then-ruling KMT and the Chinese Communist Party that there is only "one China," with each side free to interpret what it means.

To advance cross-strait relations, Chu said leaders of both sides of the Taiwan Strait must sit down and talk face-to-face so both sides can seek common ground and reach a consensus.

"Cross-strait policy is an issue any leader (of Taiwan) cannot avoid," Chu said.

He explained that he chose Kinmen to be the venue of the proposed leadership summit because it is where the first cross-strait agreement was signed.

In September 1990, the Red Cross of Taiwan and China were each authorized by their governments to sign a deal on the repatriation of criminal suspects or convicts. Dubbed the Kinmen Agreement, it was touted as one setting the model of cross-strait negotiations as the two sides decided to steer clear of politically sensitive terms such as each other's official names.

Chu is among the front runners to win the KMT nomination for the presidential election, scheduled to be held together with the legislative polls on Jan. 11 next year.

Among the other are Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu, who is currently visiting China on a trade promotion tour and met Monday with Beijing's top official overseeing cross-strait relations.

The KMT is planning to open registration for the presidential primary next month and finalize the nominee as early as June.

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