TAIPEI, Taiwan - It is highly unlikely that Pope Francis will meet with mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping in the US even though they are both visiting the country, Foreign Minister David Lin said yesterday.
Asked to comment on the issue as the leaders of the Holy See and China are both currently visiting the US, Lin told local media that the two visits are "unrelated."
"There is no reason to link the two's US trips together," Lin said yesterday.
The pope is visiting the US to give speeches to the United Nations as it celebrates the 70th anniversary of its founding, Lin said.
When asked to comment if the two leaders could meet and discuss issues regarding Taiwan in the US, the minister said it is "entirely impossible."
Lin made the comments in the wake of a mainland Chinese media report earlier this month that said the Vatican could sever ties with Taipei in favour of Beijing soon.
Since both the Pope and Xi are visiting the US, some have been speculating if the two may meet to discuss possible issues on establishing official ties.
China and the Holy See have been at odds over the Vatican's diplomatic ties with Taiwan over the past decades.
Since assuming the papacy in March 2013, however, Pope Francis has repeatedly expressed a wish to bring about closer relations with China.
Commenting on Pope Francis' goodwill gesture to Beijing, Lin said the two sides have huge differences, especially regarding religious freedom and the appointment of bishops in China, Lin said.
The minister also said Taiwan and the Holy See engage in constant communication and dialogue, adding that the R.O.C.'s diplomatic ties with the Holy See remain strong.
Pope Francis arrived in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday and is scheduled to stay in the US for six days before returning to the Vatican on Sept. 27.
Xi arrived in Seattle on Tuesday to begin his seven-day tour in the US
Expecting No Surprise in Obama-Xi Summit on Taiwan Issue
Meanwhile, commenting on the scheduled meeting between US President Barack Obama and Xi slated for Sept. 25 in Washington, new Deputy Foreign Minister Bruce Linghu said that he believes there will be "no surprise" regarding the Taiwan issue during the upcoming meeting.
As issues related to Taiwan are expected to come up during the meeting, Linghu said the ministry has already established a special task force to closely monitor Xi's ongoing visit to the US and scheduled meeting with President Obama.
According to Linghu, Washington has recently reiterated that its stance on cross-strait issues has not changed as it continues to promote its longstanding position based on the three Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act.
Taipei has also urged Washington to reiterate its stance in accordance with the TRA and the six assurances during the scheduled meeting, he said.
Linghu, the former Taiwanese top envoy to Canada, returned to Taipei yesterday to assume office as the ministry's new deputy minister to replace Andrew Kao who was transferred in July to serve as deputy secretary-general of the National Security Council.