Senior Taiwan opposition leader to visit China amid continued tensions
TAIPEI (Reuters) -A senior leader of the Kuomintang (KMT), Taiwan's main opposition party, will visit China this week and meet its top Taiwan policy-maker, the party said on Monday, amid continued military and political tensions between the two sides.
China has during the past three years ramped up pressure on Taiwan to accept Chinese sovereignty, including staging regular military drills near the democratically governed island. Taiwan's government rejects China's territorial claims.
The KMT said its deputy chairman, Andrew Hsia, would leave for China on Wednesday and meet Song Tao, the newly appointed head of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, in a rare high-level interaction between top politicians from Taiwan and China.
Hsia, a former Taiwanese diplomat and one-time head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, and his delegation will "conduct exchanges and dialogue on the basis of equality and dignity", the KMT said.
They will "reflect Taiwan's latest public concerns about the security of the Taiwan Strait and expectations for regional peace and stability", the party added.
The Mainland Affairs Council said the KMT had informed it of the trip, adding that Taiwanese politicians who visit China should "reflect" the Taiwan people's insistence on maintaining democracy and peace and not enter into any authorised negotiations.
The KMT traditionally favours close ties with China, but strongly denies being pro-Beijing. China's Taiwan Affairs Office said it welcomed Hsia's visit.
Hsia visited China last August, on a trip condemned by Taiwan's government, shortly after Beijing staged war games near Taiwan to express anger at a visit to Taipei by then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
China has not spoken with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's administration since she took office in 2016, believing she is a separatist, and has rebuffed frequent calls from Tsai for dialogue to resume.
The KMT has defended its outreach to China, saying lines of communication must be kept open.
The party's statement on Hsia's visit said that considering the current "stalemate" in relations across the Taiwan Strait, "it is natural not to sit idly by" and that the KMT would report on the trip to the government once back.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Gerry Doyle)