Taiwan opposition presidential candidate Tsai says she may meet Xi

Tsai Ing-wen (left) and Xi Jinping.
PHOTO: Reuters

TAIPEI - Tsai Ing-wen, the presidential candidate of Taiwan's main opposition party, the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, said she was open to meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping if she is elected the island's next leader, two days after the announcement of a historic summit between Xi and incumbent Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou.

The DPP has long been known for its antagonism toward Beijing, but in recent years, under Tsai's leadership, it has adopted a more restrained stance, supporting cross-strait exchanges.

Tsai has pledged to maintain the status quo across the Taiwan Strait should she win the presidential election on Jan 16. She has been leading comfortably in the polls against Eric Chu, chairman of the ruling Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, and its presidential candidate.

"If I get elected next year, I will not rule out the possibility, if the event can be conducted on an equal footing, with openness and transparency, and without political preconditions," Tsai told reporters during a campaign trip to the island of Penghu on Thursday.

The statement came as a surprise. Tsai has been downplaying cross-strait ties, the DPP's traditional Achilles' heel. She has instead focused her campaign on domestic issues. Many Taiwanese voters are shunning the KMT, holding Ma responsible for tepid economic growth. Tsai has chosen not to oppose the meeting between Ma and Xi outright, although she did criticise what she said was a lack of transparency in the administration's moves to arrange the talks.

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