Ma-Xi meet planned for weeks: Ministry

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has been involved in the government's preparation efforts "for a period of time" ahead of the upcoming historic meeting between President Ma Ying-jeou and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Singapore this Saturday, Foreign Minister David Lin said yesterday.

Fielding questions during a session in the Legislative Yuan, Lin said that he had known about the proposed Ma-Xi meeting in Singapore "for several weeks."

The minister said the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) is the main government unit responsible for preparing for the historic meeting but MOFA has been offering assistance in contacting related countries, including the host country Singapore, to facilitate the meeting.

Singapore has been very cooperative in hosting the Ma-Xi meeting, according to Lin.

Singapore's foreign ministry issued a press release that praised the upcoming meeting as "a milestone in the history of cross-strait relations since 1949."

"As a close and longstanding friend of both mainland China and Taiwan, we are happy to facilitate and be the venue for their direct dialogue," Lin quoted the press release issued by Singapore's foreign ministry.

The minister also disclosed that his ministry recently informed the US government ahead of Saturday's meeting. Other major world powers including Japan and the European Union have also been informed of the impending event.

The international community and press covering the news have mostly given high praise and positive reaction to the first-ever meeting between the leaders of both sides of the Taiwan Strait, Lin said.

The foreign minister said the ministry had originally pushed for the unprecedented meeting to be held at the annual APEC summit for years.

The Chinese side, however, rejected the proposal since it believes such a meeting should not take place at an international venue like the APEC summit.

The upcoming Ma-Xi meeting was finally made possible thanks to the efforts of both Taiwanese and Chinese authorities following MAC Minister Andrew Hsia's previous meeting with China's Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijung last month, he disclosed.

Both sides all agreed that Singapore could be the perfect place for such a historic meeting, Lin said.

Lin stressed that the upcoming meeting will be conducted under the principle of equal footing and that the discussions will be conducted with national dignity in mind.

Taiwan's Presidential Office confirmed late Tuesday that President Ma and mainland leader Xi will meet in Singapore on Nov. 7. The historic meeting will be the first time the leaders from both sides of the Taiwan Strait meet.