Oppose Taiwan independence, China's Xi says at historic meeting

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China, Taiwan Leaders Shake Hands After 66 Years

China and Taiwan must not let proponents of Taiwan's independence split them, China's President Xi Jinping told Taiwan's president on Saturday at the first meeting between leaders of the two sides since China's civil war ended in 1949.

Ma Ying-jeou, president of self-ruled, democratic Taiwan, where anti-Beijing sentiment has been rising ahead of elections, called for mutual respect for each other's systems and said Taiwan people were concerned about mainland missiles pointing their way.

The talks, at a luxury hotel in the neutral venue of Singapore, lasted less than an hour but were heavy with symbolism.

SEE MORE: Timeline of China-Taiwan relations leading to historic meet

The two leaders shook hands and smiled in front of a mass of journalists when they met, with Xi wearing a red tie, the color of the Communist Party, and Ma a blue one, the color of his Nationalist Party.

Moving into a meeting room, Xi, speaking first and sitting opposite Ma, said Chinese people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait had the ability and wisdom to solve their own problems.

"No force can pull us apart because we are brothers who are still connected by our flesh even if our bones are broken, we are a family in which blood is thicker than water," Xi said.

See more on China-Taiwan relations:

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Oppose Taiwan independence, China's Xi says at historic meeting
Students protesters against a trade pact with China cheer after leaving the legislature in Taipei, Taiwan, Thursday, April 10, 2014. The students ended their unprecedented, 24-day occupation of Taiwan's Parliament late Thursday after receiving assurances that a Chinese trade pact they see as imperiling the island's autonomy would undergo legislative review. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)
Student protesters against a trade pact with China cheer after leaving after leaving the legislature in Taipei, Taiwan, Thursday, April 10, 2014. The students ended their unprecedented, 24-day occupation of Taiwan's Parliament late Thursday after receiving assurances a Chinese trade pact they see as imperiling the island's autonomy would undergo legislative review. The sign at left reads "false democracy, real dictatorship, Ma(Ying-jeou) Chiang(Yi-huah) step down." (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)
Student protesters against a Taiwan's trade pact with China continue to occupy the legislature floor in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Students continue their 17-day-old protest voicing their opposition to the trade pact, challenging the president's policy of moving the democratic island economically closer to China. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
Student protesters against a Taiwan's trade pact with China occupy the streets surrounding the legislature in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Students continue their 17-day-old protest voicing their opposition to a trade pact with China, challenging the president's policy of moving the democratic island economically closer to China. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
China's President Xi Jinping attends a meeting of the second Understanding China Conference, in Beijing, China, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. President Xi Jinping said Tuesday that China needs at least 6.5 percent economic growth in coming years and the Communist Party announced plans to let its tightly controlled yuan trade freely by 2020. (Jason Lee/Pool Photo via AP)
FILE - In this April 15, 2015 file photo, Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen speaks in Taipei, Taiwan. The top two political parties in Taiwan have each nominated a woman for president in 2016, a historic first signaling acceptance of female leadership and kicking off a campaign highlighted so far by clashing views on ties with political rival China. Tsai, an advocate of more cautious relations with Beijing, leads in opinion polls ahead of the January 2016 election. (AP Photo/Wally Santana, File)
Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou speaks to foreign media during a press conference in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, April 8, 2015. President Ma said Wednesday that relations with political and military rival China were moving forward despite widespread public opposition that crested with a student occupation of parliament last year. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
FILE - In this April 8, 2015 file photo, Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou speaks to foreign media during a press conference in Taipei, Taiwan. Taiwan's China-friendly president warned his successor Saturday, OCT. 10, 2015, to continue to meet Beijing's condition for dialogue that the two sides see each other as parts of one country, despite growing discontent at home toward the mainland's Communist leadership. President Ma said that maintaining the status quo was necessary to stop relations between Beijing and Taiwan from worsening. The leading candidate in the 2016 presidential race opposes the condition for formal talks and advocates a more guarded approach to relations with Beijing. (AP Photo/Wally Santana, File)
Opposition party supporters scuffle with police as they protest the arrival of Chen Deming, President of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), upon his arrival at the Taoyuan International Airport in Taoyuan, Taiwan, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. Chen, China's top negotiator with Taiwan, arrived on Tuesday for his first visit to Taiwan since the major defeat of the pro-China Nationalist Party in island-wide local elections on Nov. 29. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
Demonstrators from the opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) hold placards calling for visiting Chinese envoy Chen Deming to return back to China, during a protest outside the Taipei train station before Chen left for the eastern city of Hualien on December 10, 2014. The visit by Chen, president of China's quasi-official Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, comes amid growing fears about China's increasing influence on the island, which Beijing considers part of its territory. AFP PHOTO / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
China's Taiwan envoy Chen Deming (C), president of the quasi-official Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, looks over at protesters rallying against his visit, as he arrives at the Taipei train station before heading to the eastern city of Hualien on December 10, 2014. Chen's visit comes amid growing fears about China's increasing influence on the island, which Beijing considers part of its territory. AFP PHOTO / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
China's Taiwan envoy Chen Deming (C), president of the quasi-official Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, is surrounded by the security staffs upon arriving at Taoyuan airport on December 9, 2014. The visit comes after Taiwan's Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party suffered a resounding defeat in key local elections in November. AFP PHOTO / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
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In response, Ma said he was determined to promote peace across the Taiwan Strait and that relations should be based on sincerity, wisdom and patience.

Ma also asked Xi indirectly to respect Taiwan's democracy.

"Both sides should respect each other's values and way of life to ensure mutual benefit and a win-win situation across the straits," he said.

China's Nationalists, also known as the Kuomintang (KMT), retreated to Taiwan after losing the civil war to the Communists, who are still in charge in Beijing.

The mainland has never renounced the use of force to bring what it considers a breakaway province under its control.

Speaking to reporters after the talks, Ma said he hoped Xi could pay attention to China's missile deployment - the island has long fretted about batteries pointed its way - to which Xi replied that was not an issue about Taiwan, he said.

"I at least raised the issue, and told him that the Taiwanese people have questions and concerns about it, and hope he will treat it with importance," Ma said.

Zhang Zhijun, the head of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, said Xi told Ma that the biggest threat to the peaceful development of relations was pro-independence forces.

"The compatriots on both sides should unite and firmly oppose it," Zhang said.

See a timeline of China-Taiwan relations leading up to the historic meeting:

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NTP: Timeline of China-Taiwan relations leading to historic meet
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Oppose Taiwan independence, China's Xi says at historic meeting
File - In this Mar. 24, 1996 file photo, re-elected President Lee Teng-hui, center, is congratulated by his supporters as he roams through some thousands of people gathered for a celebration rally in Taipei, Taiwan. China and Taiwan have been separately ruled since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, but China claims sovereignty over the island and insists the two sides eventually unify. They have in recent years set aside that dispute to build trust and sign economic cooperation deals, and their presidents will meet for the first time Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
File - In this Oct. 10, 2004 file photo, Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian waves to the audience after giving a speech during National Day celebrations in front of the Presidential Building in Taipei, Taiwan. China and Taiwan have been separately ruled since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, but China claims sovereignty over the island and insists the two sides eventually unify. They have in recent years set aside that dispute to build trust and sign economic cooperation deals, and their presidents will meet for the first time Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wally Santana, File)
File - In this Mar. 22, 208, file photo, Taiwan's opposition Nationalist Party presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou, center, Vice presidential candidate Vincent Siew, second from right, Ma's wife Chou Mei-chin, second from left, celebrate after winning the presidential election at Taipei, Taiwan. China and Taiwan have been separately ruled since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, but China claims sovereignty over the island and insists the two sides eventually unify. They have in recent years set aside that dispute to build trust and sign economic cooperation deals, and their presidents will meet for the first time Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu, File)
File - In this June 26, 2010 file photo, anti-China demonstrators hold placards denouncing the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) planned with China, in Taipei, Taiwan. China and Taiwan have been separately ruled since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, but China claims sovereignty over the island and insists the two sides eventually unify. They have in recent years set aside that dispute to build trust and sign economic cooperation deals, and their presidents will meet for the first time Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wally Santana, File)
File - In this June 24, 2010 file photo, cross-strait negotiator from China Zheng Lizhong, left, shakes hands with his Taiwan counterpart Kao Koong-lian at the start of a meeting aimed at putting the finishing touches on a bilateral trade deal between the two rivals in Taipei, Taiwan. China and Taiwan have been separately ruled since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, but China claims sovereignty over the island and insists the two sides eventually unify. They have in recent years set aside that dispute to build trust and sign economic cooperation deals, and their presidents will meet for the first time Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wally Santana, File)
File - In this Mar. 28, 2014 file photo, student protesters against a Taiwan's trade pact with China continue to occupy the legislature floor in Taipei, Taiwan. China and Taiwan have been separately ruled since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, but China claims sovereignty over the island and insists the two sides eventually unify. They have in recent years set aside that dispute to build trust and sign economic cooperation deals, and their presidents will meet for the first time Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wally Santana, File)
File - In this Apr. 5, 2014 file photo, student protesters against a Taiwan's trade pact with China continue to occupy the legislature floor in Taipei, Taiwan. China and Taiwan have been separately ruled since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, but China claims sovereignty over the island and insists the two sides eventually unify. They have in recent years set aside that dispute to build trust and sign economic cooperation deals, and their presidents will meet for the first time Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying, File)
File - In this Apr. 2, 2014 file photo, a student protester against a Taiwan's trade pact with China takes a phone call inside the occupied legislature in Taipei, Taiwan. China and Taiwan have been separately ruled since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, but China claims sovereignty over the island and insists the two sides eventually unify. They have in recent years set aside that dispute to build trust and sign economic cooperation deals, and their presidents will meet for the first time Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wally Santana, File)
File - In this Apr. 10, 2014 file photo, student protesters against a trade pact with China cheer after leaving the legislature in Taipei, Taiwan. China and Taiwan have been separately ruled since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, but China claims sovereignty over the island and insists the two sides eventually unify. They have in recent years set aside that dispute to build trust and sign economic cooperation deals, and their presidents will meet for the first time Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying, File)
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OPPOSITION DISAPPOINTED

The meeting comes ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections on Taiwan which the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is favored to win, something Beijing is desperate to avoid.

Speaking in Taiwan, DPP leader and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen said she was disappointed Ma made no direct mention of Taiwan's freedom and democracy.

"We had expected President Ma to talk about Taiwan's democracy, freedom and the existence of the Republic of China," she said, in comments carried on Taiwan television stations, referring to Taiwan's official name.

"More importantly, the Taiwan people's right to choose freely. But he did not say a word of that."

While bilateral trade, investment and tourism have blossomed - particularly since Ma and his KMT took power in 2008 - there is deep suspicion on both sides and no progress has been made on any sort of political settlement.

No agreements had been expected in what was seen as a highly symbolic get-together in Singapore, a largely ethnic Chinese city-state that has maintained good ties with both for decades.

Protocol problems loomed large for democratic Taiwan and autocratic China and the two addressed each other as "mister" to avoid using the word "president", as neither officially recognizes the other as head of state.

Further underscoring China's sensitivities, state television only showed Xi's comments live, cutting away when Ma began to speak, prompting a flurry of complaints on Chinese social media about censorship. It later showed a recording of Ma's opening remarks.

TAIWAN PROTESTS

The meeting comes as Xi hopes to cement his place among China's pantheon of great leaders and Ma, stepping down next year due to term limits, tries to shape his legacy marred by growing anti-Beijing feeling in Taiwan.

While China is laudatory, concerns have been raised in Taiwan, and on Saturday a few hundred people took to the streets in Taipei to protest against the meeting.

"Though he said he won't sign any agreements there, the Ma-Xi meeting itself shows there will definitely be some discussions or negotiations which have not been approved of by Taiwan's people," said protester Sung Yun-chuan.

Ma and Xi were due to have dinner together before flying out of Singapore separately.

Ma was due to present Xi bottles of spirits made on two groups of islands just off the mainland that have been occupied by Taiwan forces since the end of the civil war.

He would also present Xi with a ceramic sculpture of a Taiwan blue magpie perched on a leafy green branch as a gift for their first meeting, a bird unique to the island, Taiwan's presidential office said.

(Additional reporting by Lee Chyen Yee, and Faith Hung and Damon Lin in Taipei; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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