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Taiwanese envoy talks with Kerry and Singapore PM at Apec summit, but meeting with Xi unlikely

A senior envoy of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has arrived in Lima, Peru, for the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, despite speculation he might not be welcomed due to Beijing’s pressure.

James Soong Chu-yu was greeted by his local host upon his arrival, but also held talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday to discuss Apec issues, Taiwanese media reported on Friday.

Analysts said Soong’s presence at the weekend summit indicated Beijing did not intend to make Soong look bad.But whatever goodwill exists is unlikely to extend at meeting with mainland President

Xi Jinping.

“It is unlikely Xi would hold any meeting with Soong on the sidelines of the Apec event as Beijing does not want to create any impression that it would rekindle the now strained cross-strait relations,” said Kao Koong-lian, former secretary-general of the Straits Exchange Foundation, a semi-official intermediary that discusses cross-strait issues with a mainland counterpart.

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Soong, who heads the mainland-friendly People First Party, met Xi in Beijing in 2014 during which he reiterated his support for the idea that both Taiwan and the mainland belonged to “one China” and that they were family living on two sides of the strait.

Kao said Soong’s political stance was the major reason why Beijing did not veto Tsai’s decision to send Soong.

Tsai, who is also chairwoman of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, has so far refused to accept the “one China”, leading the mainland to suspend communications and exchanges across the strait.

Though Taiwan is an Apec member since 1991, it cannot send its president to the summit, due to Beijing’s insistence, instead it can send officials with economic expertise as envoys.

Since Tsai named Soong as her Apec envoy last month, there has been speculation he could be snubbed as Beijing never affirmed it would accept him as a representative.

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Four days before he left for Lima, Soong led party officials to pay respects to the statue of the late Chinese republic founder Sun Yat-sen, during which he vowed to uphold his support for Taiwan and the mainland as parts of China.

Local media said the reiteration of his stance probably helped ensure a smooth visit in Peru.

Lee Hung-chun, a PFP lawmaker who accompanied Soong, told Taiwanese media Soong had a 30 minute exchange with Kerry on the sidelines of the summit.

At a press conference reported by Taiwanese media, when Soong was asked about meeting Xi, he

said he was not authorised by Tsai to discuss cross-strait issues.

On Friday, Soong also met Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for an hour-long talk ahead of the summit, Lee told Taiwanese media.

Soong is expected to meet Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan – a close informal ally of the Tsai government – over the prospects of the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which US president-elect Donald Trump has vowed to scrap.